Blogs, Forever Dogs: Stories of Awesome Dogs

National Pit Bull Awareness Month: A Celebration of “Pit Bull” Type Dogs

National Pit Bull Awareness Month: A Celebration of “Pit Bull” Type  Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

I had so much fun celebrating black dogs and cats on Friday, October 13 and featuring the awesome dogs of my readers, that I could not let National Pit Bull Awareness Month come to an end without a celebration of the beloved “pit bull” type dogs who share their lives with some of the readers and friends from the Love, Laugh, Woof community.

According to the National Pit Bull Awareness Month website, the goal of this month is to change misconceptions and stereotypes about “pit bull” type dogs. Originally celebrated on a single day before being extended to a full month, the website explains, “NPBAD was established to educate and foster positive communications and experiences in the communities in which we and our dogs live, and it is an initiative dedicated to restoring the image of the American Pit Bull Terrier.”

Another organization that works extremely hard to change the perception of “pit bull” type breeds is the Bryan & Amanda Bickell Foundation.  I learned of this former Chicago Blackhawks player’s foundation while my husband and I were lunching at a Meatheads restaurant a few years ago. At that time a special hot dog was on the menu that earned the foundation 10% of the price of the hot dog each time one was sold. After lunch we went home and I read about his foundation, and he promptly became my favorite Blackhawks player.

According to the Bryan & Amanda Bickell Foundation website,

“Here’s the thing about “pit bulls” – the “breed” doesn’t exist. In fact, the American Kennel Club does not recognize “pit bull” as a breed because it is a mixture of breeds. “Pit bull” is a slang term that has been used loosely and taken advantage of by the media to describe a dog with a big head and muscular build. When a dog has been labeled a “pit bull” it is based simply on their look and not on; personality, traits or DNA. Even we at the Bickell Foundation are guilty of calling a dog a “pit bull,” but we are ready to stop.”

Source: http://www.bickellfoundation.org/stop-the-pit-label

I remember one day a few years ago when I was volunteering for Chicagoland Lab Rescue and I went to the local animal shelter to pick up a yellow Labrador who was being pulled for rescue. I was his transport, aka freedom ride from the shelter to the veterinarian who would check him out before he continued his journey to his foster home. While I waited for the shelter to gather the paperwork and bring him out to me, they told me, “You can go ahead and walk around and see if there are any other dogs you want to pull for the rescue.”

I did not want to walk through the shelter because I knew my head was about to see things that would break my heart, but I told myself that to not take that walk was weak compared to what the actual dogs were going through. As I walked down row after row of kennels, “pit bull” type dog after dog stared up at me with anticipation, as if they wondered what my role in their life was going to be. There were dozens of them and I stopped to visit with as many as I could before going back out to pick up the dog who the rescue had sent me to get, hoping to provide just a tiny bit of human love.

Having grown up entirely with sporting breeds like Labradors and German Shorthaired Pointers, I was not as familiar back then with the heart wrenching “pit bull” overpopulation problem. “Do you have a pittie specific rescue group that pulls dogs like the Lab rescue does?” I asked the woman at the front desk. She answered that there were several organizations that came through every week, particularly anytime they started to near the capacity of the shelter, and my heart broke even more at the thought of so many dogs either dumped off, no longer wanted or lost as strays and never claimed. Regardless of how they had ended up in the shelter, the result was the same: they had been failed by their humans and now needed a different type of human to come and save them.

So why are there so many “pit bull” type dogs in shelters and in dire need of rescue?

According to the Best Friends site, on the page All About Pit Bulls, “Because pit bull terriers have become so popular, some people are over breeding them. Others neglect to have their dogs spayed or neutered, resulting in unwanted litters. These two factors have led to an influx of pit bull terrier–like dogs in shelters. When there are a lot of the same types of pets available for adoption, people can easily get overwhelmed when trying to choose one to bring home, and they often end up leaving the shelter without a pet.

There are many ways to help these misunderstood dogs, even if you are not ready to add another dog into your home at this time. Foster based dog rescue organizations depend on volunteers to provide transportation to dogs and to foster them with the goal of helping them find their forever home. Unfortunately, I have never found a dog rescue organization with enough money to cover all of the work that they want to do so monetary donations are always needed. Please consider donating to any of the groups that I have mentioned in this blog, to your local animal shelter, or to your local “pit bull type dog ” rescue organizations.

On a happy note, many of these once discarded dogs are living their happily ever after stories with their forever owners in loving homes, where they receive good food, plenty of treats, training and guidance, and most importantly: tons of love and a lifelong committment. Some of these dogs are the best friends and constant companions of my own friends and readers. Here is what they had to say about their canine cohorts.

Kona & Renny

Here’s what Kona and Renny’s Momma had to say, “Kona (the fawn colored pup) was rescued from a dog fighting ring after the FBI & ASPCA did a raid on the property and removed approximately 70 dogs. Despite her beginnings, she is the most loving dog & wants to meet every person she sees from babies on up. Kisses for everyone!

She is extremely intelligent & requires A LOT of physical & mental stimulation otherwise she will make a toy out of whatever she finds. Lol. All of her quirks makes me love her more than I thought it possible to love anything. Kona does have some fear issues but we had hoped to adopt another dog (another pittie/pittie mix pup) and after introductions we found she drew comfort from the other so we adopted Renny (the black brindle).

Renny is our quiet little shadow that is content to just lay next to you all day & get belly rubs & give kisses too! The two have developed a bond that melts your heart. We are the luckiest people to get to share our home & life with these two.”

Chase

Love Laugh Woof Blog
Meagan and Chase

Meagan Giarratano, founder and owner of Au Pair for Paws Dog Training in Ocean Beach, New York, shared this story, “I have two pit mixes that keep me laughing all day. I spend a lot of time with my dogs and if it weren’t for them I don’t know where I would be. The love of my first pit, Chase (pictured below) was what started my business endeavor to become a dog trainer. The challenging start we had caused the respect and love for each other to grow from there. Training actually saved his life. That love turned into a lot of laughs and a lot of woofs throughout the last few years thanks to amazing clients I have met. He is my best friend and I don’t know what I would do without him.”

 

 

Jax

Love Laugh Woof blog Jax
Jax

Not to be confused with my own handsome Jax, this boy is special in his own right. His Momma says, “This is Jax…pit-mix and major lover-boy. He spends more time licking the faces of his pack-mates than you could imagine. He was chained up on a 3 foot leash in the yard & forgotten when his former owners grew bored with him and got a different dog. All this boy wants is to give & receive love every moment of every day.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sammy

Sammy is a rescued Jack Russell Terrier/”pit bull” mix whose mom says, “Sammy is a classic ‘mama’s boy’. The look in his eyes is the only proof I need that dogs feel love and emotional connection. He is my heart dog in every sense possible.”

Jake

“This is my handsome boy, Jake. He’s 7 years old and has brought more love, laughter and plenty of woofs than I ever would have thought possible. This pup has brought more amazing people into my life and is the reason I joined the board of Live, Love, Bark dog rescue.”

Beau

Beau’s human mom shared the story of her sweet boy, “This is Beau, my 2-year-old pittie mix. He’s a lover with a loud bark. He loves his ‘sissy’ and protects her all of the time! He sleeps under the covers every night with his nose sticking out! People are terrified of him but he would only lick them to death. My pittie!”

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Lucky Pets, Lucky Owners: A Celebration of Black Cats & Dogs
Blogs, Forever Dogs: Stories of Awesome Dogs

Lucky Pets, Lucky Owners: A Celebration of Black Cats & Dogs

Lucky Pets, Lucky Owners: A Celebration of Black Cats & Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Lucky Pets, Lucky Owners: A Celebration of Black Cats & DogsToday is Friday, October 13, 2017. With just a few weeks until Halloween, this puts Friday the 13th in the middle of the spookiest, scariest month of the year. Of course this is only one of the many superstitions that exist in our culture, along with broken mirrors causing seven years of bad luck, avoiding walking under ladders, knocking on wood to make something that you’ve said not happen, and trying not to cross the path of a black cat.

As someone who is not superstitious and only likes the not-so-scary aspect of Halloween like candy corn and non-terrifying costumes, I thought this would be the perfect day to take two of these superstitions and instead of buying into them, turn them around and celebrate the pet owners who got lucky with some of the most loveable black dogs and cats to ever scamper through their lives.

Black cats and dogs statistically have a lower adoption rate and higher euthanasia rate in shelters because of their color. As a result there are specific days to celebrate black cats and black dogs and bust the myths surrounding them, with Black Cat Appreciation day occurring on August 17 each year, and Black Dog Day on October 1. In addition to many people thinking that they look scary because their fur is so dark and their facial features are harder to see, they are also harder to photograph for the average point-and-click amateur photographer with a mobile phone camera. I cannot tell you how many photos of Jax and Tink end up with glowing alien dog eyes or are so dark you cannot see them. In dog shelters, the quality of the photos shared with the public can sometimes make the difference between a forever home and euthanasia for many dogs, so a bad photo of a black dog can be very detrimental to their adoption success.  

Snoop dreaming of frisbees

Of course I cannot help but include my own beloved black dogs first in our celebration of black dogs and cats. If you’ve read my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner, then you have read all about my first black Labrador Retriever, Snoop who was a constant companion and a fourth sibling to my brothers and me, always involved in our games and antics as we traipsed through the woods and mountains of rural northwest New Jersey. After Snoop there was Cinder, another black Labrador Retriever who joined our family when I was in high school.

How Many Dogs Should You Have?
Babe on a beach adventure

My first dog of my own as an adult was my late black Labrador Babe, who I rescued as a two year old owner surrender and who quickly became my best friend and sidekick for the next twelve years. Her passing left the hole in my heart that first Jackson and then Tinkerbell filled with black dog awesomeness and love.

Maybe it’s because my first heart dog as a child was black, but black dogs are my favorite. I feel like the black coat is softer and more silky than other fur colors, shining like satin on a sunny day. Practically speaking, their fur shows up on fewer of my clothes. I love their coal black noses and how brightly colored collars pop against their fur. And knowing that they are so often misunderstood as scary just makes me love them even more.

I checked in with some of my fellow black dog and cat loving humans, and here are the awesome black pets that brought luck into their lives by joining them in their forever homes. Enjoy their stories and remember that if you are ready to add to your dog or cat family, a black dog or cat is just as sweet and loveable as the other fur colors, giving you nothing but good luck and love if their path crosses yours.

 

 

Rescue Spotlight: Love Puerto Rico Goldens
All the Dogs I've Loved Before, Blogs, Destiny, Forever Dogs: Stories of Awesome Dogs, Rescue Spotlight

Rescue Spotlight: Love Puerto Rico Goldens

Rescue Spotlight: Love Puerto Rico Goldens

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Rescue Spotlight: Love Puerto Rico GoldensIn November 2014 a yellow Labrador was found tied to a tree in a remote area in the woods in the Carolina area of Puerto Rico. She had been muzzled with a plastic bag that allowed her to breathe through her nose, but secured her mouth so that she could not chew herself free, could not eat or drink even if food had been there, and could not even pant to cool herself in the hot, humid tropical weather. Fortunately a good Samaritan came along and found her, cutting her free, and taking her into the foster care of rescue group Love Puerto Rico Goldens.

Her rescuers and fosters bathed her, gave her medical care, and found a foster home for her. In January 2015 they arranged for her to fly to the United States to be adopted out through Chicagoland Lab Rescue. They named her Destiny with the hope that she would be able to fulfill her destiny of finding a loving forever home and the happy, safe, healthy life that she and all dogs deserve.

At that time I was actively volunteering for Chicagoland Lab Rescue and I immediately volunteered to be her foster as soon as I read the story of how she had been found. I knew I wanted her to feel the love and comfort that my own dogs receive on a daily basis, and so my husband and I picked her up from O’Hare Airport the day before the  Super Bowl that year as a blizzard loomed on the weather radar.

In less than the span of twelve hours, Destiny left the world she had come to know, flew on an airplane, experienced the frenzy of the arrivals area of a major international airport on a Saturday night, drove in a strange car with utter strangers, and then stepped into snow and a whirling blizzard for the first time in her life. I cannot imagine what she was thinking or feeling, and I was amazed that she trusted me and settled into her kennel in our living room at bedtime that night without so much as a bark or whimper.

If you have followed my blog for a while or read my book, then you have read about Destiny. She was with us for around three months and she had as much of an impact on my life as I had on hers. In those three months she absolutely claimed a permanent spot in my heart. In fact the only reason that she is not laying next to me as I write this post is that I knew when I met her forever family that they needed her in their life to fill the void that their previous dog’s passing had left in their hearts, while my heartache from the loss of my previous dogs had already been filled by both Jackson and Tinkerbell.

Destiny after a month in our home, learning to snuggle and trust. 

These days, Destiny is living the life that every dog deserves as the only dog of a couple who love her and dote on her daily. No longer skin and bones, she could actually lose a few pounds, but the thought of her living on the streets alone and starving, or tied to that tree in the woods with no way to free herself, makes it hard for her humans to tell her no when she wants a few extra treats. And quite frankly, I don’t blame them one bit.

In one of those bittersweet aspects of life, Destiny is just one of hundreds of dogs who Love Puerto Rico Goldens has saved. Since fostering Destiny I have become friends with some of her rescuers on Facebook and have been added to a group of people who have adopted some of the group’s dogs here in the mainland United States. The bitter part is that there is a never-ending number of dogs who desperately need their care. The sweet part comes from the stories of life after being rescued that their owners share through happy photos of the dogs enjoying their new lives.

If you know anything about dog rescue, then you know that there is never, ever enough money to go around, even in the best circumstances. There is a never-ending population of dogs in need of homes, most of whom have not received proper medical care from their prior owners. Some have intestinal parasites, most have not been spayed or neutered, others have heartworms. Some arrive pregnant or with a litter of puppies, exponentially adding to the bills that the rescue is trying to cover with donations and adoption fees. One of the reasons that Love Puerto Rico Goldens is able to save as many dogs as they have is that they have arranged for many of their dogs to fly to rescues in the US mainland just like Destiny did, so there is the added cost of transportation via commercial airline.

Destiny waiting for her treats at the bank

Ever since Destiny stepped out of her travel crate in the cargo pickup area of O’Hare airport I have wanted to go to Puerto Rico to meet her rescuers, give a hug to the kind souls who originally found her, meet some of the other dogs who they have rescued, interview the people who run the rescue, and write as much as they will let me about their tireless work to help Golden Retrievers and other dogs in a place that has a heart-wrenching homeless dog problem that has been exacerbated by the dire financial situation on the island commonwealth. I have not made it there yet, but it remains very high on my list.

Their work was hard enough before the massive devastation of Category 4 Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc to homes, businesses and roads all over the entire island. Now the need for donations and assistance is even greater. 

As the citizens of Puerto Rico, and the volunteers who run Love Puerto Rico Goldens, struggle with day-to-day life on this hard hit island, donations to their cause are even more important. If you have the ability to do so, please go to the Love Puerto Rico Goldens website and click on the Donate button http://www.lovepuertoricogoldens.org. 

To read more about Destiny, click here:

A Rescued Dog Named Destiny

Destiny the Yellow Labrador, One Month Later

One Giant Leap for Destiny

Fulfilling Her Destiny

 

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Babe and the Downtown Cow
All the Dogs I've Loved Before, Blogs, Forever Dogs: Stories of Awesome Dogs

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Babe and the Downtown Cow

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Babe and the Downtown Cow

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Babe and the Downtown CowI was browsing through Facebook earlier today when I came across a photo in a Labrador Retriever group of someone’s Labrador and their cows. The dog was getting epic kisses from the cows and generally having a great time visiting his bovine buddies in their barn. All of a sudden it reminded me of a morning walk with my late Babe that had drifted back into the far recesses of my memory.

I’ve talked about adopting my then two-year old Labrador Retriever Babe when I rented a tiny one bedroom apartment in the downtown area of the small-ish Midwestern city Valparaiso, Indiana. Not only was the apartment tiny, it was in a house that had essentially no yard and definitely nowhere to fence even if my landlord had allowed it. As a result, Babe and I walked every day, like the proverbial mailman, in sun, rain, snow, sleet, you name it.

My walks with Babe were beyond special. Although they were initially just for the practical function of making sure she went to the bathroom and got plenty of exercise, we quickly developed an incredible bond and mind-meld. She was my first dog of my own and my first heart dog to be all mine. It was Babe and me, together, and our cross-species friendship was the glue that held my life together on more occasions than I can count, in more intense and emotional situations than I am willing to write about right now. Back then I did not view her like my canine child like I do Jax and Tink, but as my very best friend.

Babe and I walked every inch of downtown Valparaiso over the years that we lived there. We walked along the main street that was lined with businesses and hug

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Babe and the Downtown Cow
Babe circa 2002

e windows that she loved to look inside. Sometimes patrons of the shops and restaurants would cross our path and she would start to wiggle from a block away, so adorable and Lab-like that they always stopped to pet her. We walked past churches, old Victorian homes, newer homes, the local elementary school, the library, and several banks. She liked to go into the banks because she often got biscuits from the dog loving tellers.

One beautiful autumn morning she and I were walking very early before I had to get ready to go to work. It was September and I remember the weather was absolutely perfect and I had spent most of the walk enjoying the fall decorations that were starting to show up on neighbors’ front porches.

As Babe and I walked in silence, in our special mind-meld between dog and owner, we reached a section of the street that was completely lined by a hedge that was taller than me. As we started to walk on the sidewalk next to the hedge, I heard a moo. Babe heard it too, and she stopped and turned to look up at me with a puzzled look on her face. “Ok, that sounded like a cow!” I said out loud as she wagged her tail as if she understood.

We took a few more steps and heard it again, just on the other side of the hedge.

“Mooooooo!”

We took a few more steps and all of a sudden, Babe started to pull me as she raced forward to a hole in the hedge. She shoved her head into the open area and I watched as she came face to face with an adorable black and white calf.

Oh my gosh, it IS a cow!” I said to Babe as her tail wagged so hard I thought it might fly off of her body, “At least I’m not going crazy!”

We walked to the end of the block to a portion of the yard where the hedge did not block the fence and the calf followed along on her side of the yard. Once there was no hedge to block us, Babe and the calf exchanged kisses and nuzzled as they checked each other out. Babe’s tail wagged even harder as she investigated this strange creature. I knew she would not hurt it and her reaction was sweet and submissive to this bigger, strange creature that was just a baby.

We visited the calf as long as we could before I had to end the interaction and head to get ready to go to work. Of course I told the story to everyone I saw and then a few days later came across an article in our local paper that explained that the homeowners also owned a dairy farm a half hour away and that the calf had been rejected by her mother. Driving back and forth for feedings was too difficult to do for an extended period of time, so they brought the calf to hang out in their downtown yard until it was old enough to rejoin the herd at the farm.

Even though this experience was nearly fifteen years ago I decided to search for the article. Thanks to the paper’s online archives, I found the original article as well as an editorial supporting the cow’s temporary stay in downtown Valparaiso.

As I read the article, I was elated to see a photo of the calf standing in front of the same little fence where she and Babe had licked each other so lovingly that beautiful autumn morning. In the seven years since Babe has gone to the Rainbow Bridge, I had almost forgotten about that morning that was so special at the time.

I sit here trying to remember what else was going on at that time. What had been on my mind that morning besides appreciating the beautiful fall weather before we came across the cow? I cannot recall any those things almost 15 years later, but I can recall everything about Babe and the cow, a true testament to the role that dogs have in our lives and the things that really matter.

 

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Love Laugh Woof Dog Stories: Dutch the Regal Jester
All the Dogs I've Loved Before, Blogs, Forever Dogs: Stories of Awesome Dogs

Love Laugh Woof Dog Stories: Dutch the Regal Jester

Love Laugh Woof Dog Stories: Dutch the Regal Jester

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Love Laugh Woof Dog Stories: Dutch the Regal JesterI once read an article that referred to the German Shorthaired Pointer as the “Regal Jester”, a description that I found to be utterly perfect the more I got to know our own German Shorthaired Pointer, Dutch. Up until Dutch came into our lives, we had lived with only Labrador Retrievers, first Snoop, then Cinder, then Jake and Jake’s son Beau. Considering that Labrador Retrievers are definitely not low energy dogs, the fact that there was a breed more energetic and silly than a Lab was a source of constant entertainment.

Here is an excerpt about Dutch from my book, Love, Laugh, Woof:

When Cinder was around eleven years old, she became sick and passed away. Jake and Beau were still young and loved hunting more than anything else in the world, but they had both begun to have severe grand mal epileptic seizures and Dad was hesitant to take them on bird hunting outings because of their frequent episodes. He had been doing a lot of research on German  Shorthaired Pointers and was planning to get one as his next dog. He had located a professional breeder and put a deposit on a puppy from the next litter.

One night when I was visiting for dinner, he told Mom and me, “Now this puppy is not going to be as warm and loving as the Labs. This breed is a bit more aloof, so don’t be hurt if he doesn’t want to cuddle and lay on top of you like the Labs.”

“That’s ok, we’ve got Jake and Beau to love up on, don’t we?” I replied in my doggie voice, getting down on the floor to play with them. “Yes, you will give me all of the loving I need, right? This new puppy can be hunting all the time if that’s what he wants!”

A few months later, Dutch came home and I headed over to my parents’ house to meet the “aloof” puppy. As soon I walked into the house I spotted him curled up in a ball within the rungs of the kitchen chair, a silky dark brown puppy, covered with white speckles and large round brown patches. He woke up a few minutes after I arrived and we took him outside to relieve himself.

His business finished, I could not resist scooping him up. He was one of the most beautiful puppies I had ever seen in my life, and how aloof could a puppy possibly be?

Dutch nestled into my arms and started to lick my face. “Oh yes, you are so aloof, you don’t want anything to do with us humans, do you?” I cooed to him in my sing-song puppy voice.

“Well, don’t expect that to last too long, he’s going to be all about the birds,” Dad said.

Dutch did indeed grow up to be a fantastic bird dog, but when he was not training or hunting with my father, he was one of the most goofy and funny dogs I have ever known. He also failed brilliantly at being aloof and was one of the most snuggly dogs to be a part of our family.

Love Laugh Woof Dog Stories: Dutch the Regal Jester
Dutch the Regal Jester

My father recently told me that Dutch was the easiest dog to train that he’s ever worked with. All of our dogs were beautifully trained by my father, both for general obedience and manners at home as well as for bird hunting. Dogs who hunt birds have to be well-trained for several reasons, including their own safety so that do not run off and into harms way and so that the birds that are killed are never wasted. I remember being at the house hanging out with my Mom on many occasions when Dad was training Dutch and I still recall his excitement at Dutch’s intelligence, work ethic, and trainability.

As Dutch’s “big sister” my goal was simply to play with him. I lived in an apartment across town from my parents and without a dog of my own, I went to visit their dogs on a regular basis to get my dose of puppy love. Beau and Jake were big sweet yellow Labradors with very chilled out personalities, the kind you read about in British novels set in the countryside. Dutch was equally sweet but had an energy that could power the world. Training or even a day of hunting merely put a dent in his energy stores.

From a very early age, Dutch developed a habit of bringing a toy with him every single time someone came to the front door or entered the house. While Beau and Jake were immediately at the door, Dutch would come trotting over with his unique German Shorthaired Pointer gait, his stubby docked tail wiggling back and forth happily, a fleece toy dangling from his mouth the entire time. If he could not find a toy, he grabbed the towel that my mother kept by the door to the back yard to wipe the dirty paws.

One day I went to visit my parents and the dogs and let myself into the house. Dutch had been upstairs in the master bedroom and grabbed the first thing he could find to bring to me: the king sized comforter off the bed. I laughed as I watched this big, strong, sleek and muscular dog drag a fluffy, king sized, down comforter down the first half of the stairs, around the corner of a landing, and all the way to the main floor. I remember my Mom exclaiming from her bedroom, “What the heck happened to my comforter?” as I laughed out loud at Dutch’s antics.

Dutch kept this habit his entire life. Through a series of events that I talk about in my book, Dutch became my dog when he was eight years young and every day when I arrived home from work, there was my Regal Jester with a toy, a blanket from the back of the sofa, one of my many throw pillows, or even now and then a piece of clothing from my bedroom. He never chewed it or destroyed it, simply carried it in his soft bird-hunting mouth to greet his humans or guests.

Puppy Dutch

When Babe, Dutch and I moved in with my husband and his kids, they were thoroughly amused by this big goofy dog who suddenly had a whole new world of things to carry to the door or from room to room. At the time the kids were four, six and eight and the family room was a veritable treasure trove of sweatshirts, socks (if you’ve had human children you know that they remove these things throughout day no matter where they are), toys, doll clothing, TV watching blankets. Dutch was in his glory and the kids giggled uncontrollably when they’d walk in the door and find him standing there, his happy stubby tail wagging, with their sock or a Barbie dress dangling from the side of his mouth.

Perhaps what made Dutch’s love of greeting people with things made of fabric so funny was that he had been bred by the top German Shorthaired Pointer breeder in the country. From German stock, he was a large, elegant dog with beautiful lines and a stunning and unique coat that shone like silk. The German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America describes the breed standard on their website as, “The overall picture which is created in the observer’s eye is that of an aristocratic, well-balanced, symmetrical animal with conformation indicating power, endurance and agility and a look of intelligence and animation.”

Dutch was all of those things, and I firmly believe that the mixture of that stunning, aristocratic appearance with their completely silly temperament and quirks are what combine to literally make their owners and friends laugh out loud on a daily basis. Dutch was certainly not the only GSP to live up to the Regal Jester nickname, I see it all the time in a group of German Shorthaired Pointer owners on Facebook and their photos and videos make me laugh out loud as I remember my own silly aristocrat of a dog greeting me at the door with some sort of textile hanging from his mouth.

 



Love Laugh Woof Dog Stories: Jake and the Scuba Mask
All the Dogs I've Loved Before, Blogs, Forever Dogs: Stories of Awesome Dogs

Love Laugh Woof Dog Stories: Jake and the Scuba Mask

Love Laugh Woof Dog Stories: Jake and the Scuba Mask

By Lynn Stacy-Smith

Love Laugh Woof Dog Stories: Jake and the Scuba Mask Sussex County, New Jersey is hands down the hidden gem of New Jersey. Most people from outside the state do not believe me that it exists since the stereotype is that the state is a giant toxic waste dump. That stereotype could not be farther from the truth. Located in the Appalachian Mountains, my hometown of Andover was an outdoor lover’s paradise. It was also a fabulous place to be a kid or a Labrador Retriever.

When we needed to move to the Chicago area for Dad’s job, my parents did substantial research to try to find something even remotely as secluded and wooded as the home we were selling. Fortunately they found a house on a large wooded lot with a stream running through the backyard and promptly installed an in-ground swimming pool to make up for the fact that we no longer lived lakefront. It wasn’t quite as awesome as our lakefront paradise, but it was close. Snoop loved frolicking in the stream as did Cinder when she joined our family as an energetic little puppy.

A few years after we moved our beloved Snoop passed away, leaving Cinder an only dog. The next autumn, my father was bird hunting at a hunt club that had a litter of puppies that were old enough to run around the club and explore the world but not yet ready to go to their new homes. For three weeks in a row, one particular little yellow Labrador puppy followed my Dad around every chance that he got. On the fourth week, when the puppy was eight weeks old and ready to leave his litter, Dad could not resist the little pup and Jake headed home to meet the family he had selected for himself.

Jake was another of Dad’s heart dogs and was a natural bird dog. Cinder was more attached to my mother and did not have the same drive, trainability or temperament to be a hunting companion, so she was happy to stay home with Mom and me while Jake and Dad went on their adventures. Just like Snoop before him, Jake was an absolute sweet dog who loved to swim and play fetch with my brothers and me, chill out with us in our bedrooms or hang out in the family room when our friends came over, but the moment Dad came home, Jake was by his side. If Dad went outside, Jake went outside. When Dad went to bed, Jake went to bed. Dad was clearly, without a shadow of a doubt, Jake’s chosen person.

Love Laugh Woof Dog Stories: Jake and the Scuba Mask
Jake fetching the fake plastic duck

Jake loved the swimming pool and walked down the stairs of the pool several times a day all summer, swam a few laps back and forth, and then walked back up the stairs. Cinder usually only jumped off the side when we threw a ball or a dummy to her, but Jake got in and out using the stairs like a human, very nonchalant and relaxed, just a dog going for a quick swim. If we were in the pool he would swim up to us and let us hold him in our arms like a child until he decided he was done.

An avid scuba diver, Dad adopted the practice of using his scuba mask and snorkel so that he could swim around to vacuum the pool instead of standing on the pool deck. It was extremely smart because the visibility was so much better and he could make sure he had vacuumed up every last bit of dirt or leaves and also free dive down to get any dirt at the very bottom of the pool.

Jake, I am your father!

I have seen a lot of people wearing scuba masks and snorkels throughout my lifetime, and essentially everyone looks bizarre in them. Dad’s mask was a full face mask, black and Darth Vader-ish, and Jake was about as much of a fan of the mask as Luke Skywalker was of Darth Vader. The first time I saw Dad put on the mask and snorkel in the pool, I could hardly breathe I laughed so hard at Jake’s reaction.

As incredibly smart as he was, Jake could never figure out that Dad was still Dad when he put on the mask and snorkel. He would bark and growl with his hackles up until Dad put his face in the water, and then watch him the entire time he vacuumed the pool. Sometimes we would look out into the back yard and see Jake laying on the pool cement, front paws dangling over the side of the pool with his blocky yellow head cocked to the side as he stared down at my father. If Dad moved to another area, Jake followed, watching his every move until he surfaced and Jake started his barking and growling all over again. As soon as the pool was clean and the mask and snorkel put away, Jake was his happy self again.

Love Laugh Woof Dog Stories: Jake and the Scuba Mask
Jake & Cinder enjoying the pool

Each week, Jake had the same reaction. Freak out, watch Dad’s every move, then express huge relief in the form of a wiggling Labrador body and super fast wagging tail when Dad emerged from the pool. He never jumped in to save him or went in via the steps like when he wanted to take a swim,  never tried to attack the mask, he just watched intently from the edge. Sometimes Cinder watched along with him and sometimes he did his pool patrol on his own.

I wish Jake could have communicated what he was thinking, if he was afraid something was attacking our father like a sea monster or if he had no comprehension that it was still his all-time favorite human in the entire world under that big scary mask. I can’t imagine what Jake would have done if Dad had worn an air tank!

Flash forward twenty years later and my husband has sometimes adopted this same method of vacuuming our pool, although ours is just an above-ground and takes a fraction of the time. Jackson and Tinkerbell have seen my husband and the kids in a variety of different goggles and masks and haven’t cared one bit, although ours are just for casual swimming or snorkeling, not professional scuba masks. They just glance at us and go back to doing their thing as if odd behavior from their humans is nothing out of the ordinary. If only Jake were still with us to tell them otherwise.

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Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Snoop and the Red Lifesaver Frisbee
All the Dogs I've Loved Before, Blogs, Forever Dogs: Stories of Awesome Dogs

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Snoop and the Red Lifesaver Frisbee

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Snoop and the Red Lifesaver Frisbee

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Snoop and the Red Lifesaver Frisbee If you’ve read my book and my blogs, you know that my dad was extremely influential, if not entirely responsible, for my love of dogs. In fact it is not just me who he raised to be a responsible forever dog owner, but my two brothers as well; all three of us grew up into dog loving adults and Labrador Retriever owners. Yesterday was Dad’s birthday, and he is one of my most loyal readers of this blog. I thought it would be a fun gift this week to write a series of posts dedicated to some of the stories of our beloved dogs that did not make it into my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner. I hope that you will enjoy them and that you have some of your own family dog stories with your own forever dogs.

Snoop possibly awoken from a dream of frisbees

Snoop was my first dog and taught me what it was like to have a dog as a best friend when I was just five years old. A sweet and young black Labrador Retriever, Snoop was our playmate and constant companion, but as soon as Dad arrived home from work or from a business trip, she abandoned us to become velcroed to his side until he left the house the next time.

She was next to him when he grilled, when he was inside reading or watching TV, when he worked in his home office, when he worked on projects around the house. Snoop was also his beloved hunting companion and I remember her snoring away happy and exhausted in front of the fireplace after a long day of hunting ducks with Dad.

My Mom’s side of the family loved to vacation at Lake Champlain, Vermont, and we went there several summers with my parents and grandparents, where we stayed in rental cabins on Button Bay and spent our days swimming in the lake, going out on my grandfather’s boat, staring at the surface of the dark blue water looking for Champ, and generally spending family time outdoors. Of course Snoop was with us and would swim alongside us and run along the rocky shoreline in complete Labrador Utopia.

1970s Lifesaver Frisbee that was not destroyed by a dog

One summer I brought along my most prized possession of the summer: my red Lifesavers Frisbee. I don’t remember how I got it, but I had brought it on that trip with the express purpose of playing water Frisbee with my two half-brothers. Monday through Friday I was an only child, on weekends I had rough and tumble brothers to accompany me on adventures, hang out in our rock fort in the woods, and play Star Wars and other games. That Frisbee was pretty boring on my only child days, but I knew without a shadow of doubt how much fun we could have playing with it together, and our summer vacation would give us an entire week of fun.

On the first day of our vacation we all headed down the massive flights of wooden stairs to the water, our arms laden with supplies. Our huge black inner tubes from the inside old tractor tires were pumped up and ready, Mom’s raft was inflated, snacks and drinks were packed, and I had my red Lifesaver Frisbee. We were ready for fun!

Once in the water I showed the frisbee to my brothers and we decided that not only would we play in the water, but we would all get on our inner tubes to play. Those old black inner tubes from trucks and tractors were the best floats, so much more durable and able to withstand rough housing than the easily popped versions made today.

We each got on our tubes and positioned ourselves in the water in a triangle. Of course none of our throws to each other were remotely accurate, which also added to the fun because it means we would each launch ourselves off the tube in an effort to catch it, and then swim after it to get it to throw it to the next person. In fact I am quite confident that we were all intentionally inaccurate just to make the person to whom we were throwing jump off and fetch it.

There was a dock on our beach and my grandfather’s boat was tied on the opposite side of the dock from where we were playing. After a little while Snoop noticed that we were playing a game without her and she ran out onto the dock to watch us. As she watched the red Lifesaver Frisbee flying back and forth, she grew more and more animated, her tail wagging furiously, her mouth open in the classic Labrador Retriever smile, tongue lolling out of the side of her mouth. She ran up and down the length of the dock repeatedly, happily following the frisbee as we threw it to each other.

On the next throw to me, my older brother whipped it over my head and it landed in the water about ten feet away from me, and about five feet from the end of the dock. I dove off my tube and swam to get it, but as I was halfway there I saw Snoop crouching on the dock, figuring out the angle for her jump. “No, Snoop! No! Stay!!” I yelled, swimming faster.

Like most dogs, Snoop understood Geometry better than any human, and she landed precisely in front of the frisbee with one leap and snatched it up in her mouth. Like any good hunting dog, she swiftly turned and swam to shore with her possession. “Snoop has the frisbee!!!!” we all yelled to our parents and grandparents on the shore.

“She’s a hunting dog, she has a soft mouth, she won’t hurt it!” Dad called out to me. I was swimming as fast as I could to catch her, but I had been delayed by making sure my inner tube did not float away, so she had gained a lot of ground on me.

I was still swimming back to shore as I watched our perfect hunting dog reach the beach and then race past my father across the sand with my red Lifesaver Frisbee in her mouth. “Snoop, wait!!!!” I called frantically.

“It’s ok, she’s not going to harm it, Lynn, calm down!” Dad said.

I was still swimming as I watched her take my frisbee down the beach and in a matter of seconds put her big paw on one end and start chomping on my prized toy. By the time we got it back it was no longer a beautiful perfect red circle, an oversized version of the best flavor of candy there ever was, it had been reduced to shards of plastic and Labrador slobber on the rocky gray sand.

“Snoop, you ate my frisbee!” I said to her in disbelief, and she looked up at me, tail wagging, pleased with herself and her frisbee destroying skills. I wanted to cry with disappointment over having the toy for such a brief amount of time, but as all kids growing up in the 70s knew, you did not cry over such trivial things or you would receive “something to cry about” although looking back, nothing actually happened after those words came out of our parents mouths.

I picked up the pieces and headed back to where the family was camped out in lawn chairs on the beach, Snoop trotting alongside me, sniffing her way back, blissfully unaware of the havoc she had wreaked on my plans to play Frisbee every day my brothers were with us. “Huh,” Dad said, “I didn’t think she would chew it! She would have never done that to a duck!”

Of course this story has lived on for decades, and it my most vivid memory of our vacations in Lake Champlain. A few years later we discovered an amazing place in Upstate New York and that became our new vacation tradition and the location of so many family memories. I still love to tease my Dad about his perfect Snoop and her soft mouth and how she would never ever chew up my beloved red Lifesavers Frisbee.

Beau the labrador escape artist
All the Dogs I've Loved Before, Blogs, Forever Dogs: Stories of Awesome Dogs

Beau the Labrador Escape Artist

Beau the Labrador Escape Artist

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Beau the labrador escape artistEarlier this week a viral video went around that showed a Great Pyrenees easily letting himself out of the boarding area of a Virginia animal hospital and through multiple doors all the way to the outdoors. I feel pretty confident that I am not the only dog owner who watched the video and realized they were watching one of their biggest fears happening in front of their eyes.

This video also brought back a nearly forgotten memory of my Mom’s yellow Labrador Retriever named Beau. Beau was an incredibly good dog, very sweet and chilled out similar to my Jackson in personality but with a passion for hunting birds with Dad and playing fetch endlessly with tennis balls.

Beau was the son of our family dog Jake and was just a year or so old himself when puppy Dutch joined the family. Sort of the middle child in the dog family, Beau bonded with Dutch the moment Dutch trotted into the house. Beau was so good and so intuitive that we watched him divert Dutch’s attention anytime Dutch started to get into naughty puppy mode and become essentially a puppy sitter. If Dutch tried to chew on a contraband item, Beau would bring him a ball or a toy or start playing with him to make him stop.

Beau the Labrador Escape Artist
Beau and Dutch spooning

Similarly to what I wrote about yesterday in the blog Even the Best Dogs Are Not Always Perfect, Beau had one big behavioral issue: he was an expert escape artist. As a young and physically fit Labrador, Beau was able to jump over my parent’s fence from a standing position, which he did several times. Their yard at the time was a glorious heavily wooded four acres in the country, with chain link fence around 3 sides and a beautiful cedar plank fence along the front of the house. The chain link portion was higher than the cedar and as a result of Beau’s escapades, Dad added an extension to the entire length of wooden fence. It looked ok but of course made all of us joke that the next step would be rolled barbed wire like you see outside of prisons.

The dogs also enjoyed expansive dog runs in the basement that were about four times the size of the extra-large crates that Jax and Tink have now. I loved how well-trained they were and how when I would visit or dog sit that I could just give the “kennel up” command and they would all run down the basement steps and into their own runs, Jake on the left, Beau in the middle and Dutch on the right.

Beau the Labrador Escape Artist
Beau the Labrador Escape Artist

Beau also made a habit of jumping out of his dog run and either roaming the basement or joining Jake or Dutch in their kennels. As a result, Beau’s kennel had a roof added to it to ensure that he stayed in his own run while the humans were away.

Several years later my Mom was out-of-town and the dogs were being kenneled at their usual boarding kennel, a wonderful facility in the country that my parents had used for years and where I also occasionally boarded my black Labrador Babe. We loved the owners and staff and they adored our dogs, which helped alleviate the worry and guilt over boarding them.

One morning when my Mom was on a two week scuba diving trip in Fiji, I got an early morning phone call from the kennel. Looking back, I am not sure why I was not dog sitting but I was home with Babe at my own apartment and was the emergency contact for the kennel.

“You need to come and get Beau right now, he is no longer allowed at this kennel,” they said.

“Oh my gosh! What happened! Is he ok” I asked, worried.

“He is banned for life!” they said, “He broke out of his kennel the night before last so we let that slide and tried to secure his door better. Then he broke out again last night and ate all of the food that we had prepared the night before. ALL of it.”

“Oh no!!! How much did he eat?” I asked.

All of the food for every single dog in here, so about twenty bowls of food, plus all of their medicine that was measured out into their bowls! You need to get him NOW!” 

“Ok, I will be there in a half hour, I’ll just take all three at the same time, then.” I said, already starting to put on my shoes.

I drove to the boarding kennel, loaded all three dogs, their food and their bedding into my small-ish Honda, and headed over to my mother’s house to drop them off before going back to my own apartment, picking up Babe, her food and any clothes and toiletries I would need for the rest of the time Mom was gone, and then headed over to dog sit at her house for the remaining of her vacation. It was easier for Babe and me to stay at her house and impossible to imagine watching all four dogs in my tiny apartment with the unfenced yard. Thankfully I was off work that day because I would be on close watch to make sure Beau was ok after eating miscellaneous medications.

Beau the Labrador Escape Artist
Babe, Beau, Jake and Dutch

I knew Mom was landing at night when she returned in a week so there was no chance that she would be going straight to the kennel from the airport, so I did not try to get in touch with her all the way in Fiji.  It was long before texting and social media via smart phones would make it easier to reach someone in another country and there was no need to worry her when I had everything under control. Instead I left a message on her mobile phone voice mail that I assumed she would check when she landed.

“So, I picked up your dogs at the kennel and Babe and I are staying at your house. You can ask Beau why this is, but he’s banned for life from the kennel,” I said cryptically.

As I predicted, she listened to my voice mail and called me on my mobile phone to find out what had happened. I had had several days to dramatize the story of Beau’s escape artist ways and his gluttonous escapades that had gotten him banned for life from the boarding kennel. By the time I was finished we were both roaring with laughter, although he could have easily killed himself if he had ingested the wrong medicines, not to mention the fact that those other dogs were now short a dose of their medications while their owners were away.

Beau’s bad behavior was one of those situations that would turn into a family story that we would tell for years, only now in 2017 without my mom alive anymore to share those stories, I had nearly forgotten it until General’s escape from his boarding facility went viral this week refreshed my memory. I am relieved that the dog from the video was found safe and sound and sleeping in a neighbor’s yard and a little grateful for him, too, for reminding me of this incident in my life with dogs that was truly the epitome of the laugh in Love, Laugh, Woof.

Do you have a topic you would like to suggest for the Love, Laugh, Woof blog? Email me at lovelaughwoof@outlook.com with topics that are on your mind! 

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Babe and Dutch's Doggie Daycare Interview
All the Dogs I've Loved Before, Blogs, Finding a Pet Sitter or Boarding Facility, Forever Dogs: Stories of Awesome Dogs

Babe and Dutch’s Doggie Daycare Interview

Babe and Dutch’s Doggie Daycare Interview

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Babe and Dutch's Doggie Daycare InterviewRecently I shared a story of a disgusting dog kennel experience in which my late Babe came home reeking of urine and other horrific smells in my blog Professional Pet Sitter Week: Finding Pet Sitters & Kennels You Can Trust. After publishing that blog I remembered a funny story that I had nearly forgotten about in my quest to find a suitable option for boarding: Babe and Dutch’s Doggie Daycare Interview. 

After the incident with the disgusting dog kennel, I continued to search for just the right place. I was thrilled to find a pet sitter to come into my home, a young college student who was related to the husband and wife police officers who lived across the hall from me in my apartment. She became my go-to pet sitter for Babe for several months until she transferred to a different college downstate.

Shortly after, my Mom passed away and her German Shorthaired Pointer Dutch came to live with me. If you’ve read my book, Love, Laugh, Woof: A Guide to Being Your Dog’s Forever Owner, you’ve read about goofy and lovable “Dutchdog” and his antics. I tried kennel after kennel, but I was never quite happy. One of them even scolded me when I picked up Babe and Dutch and told me, “Babe is an angel but Dutch is extremely selfish!”

Babe and Dutch's Doggie Daycare Interview
Babe & Dutch

“Selfish??” I asked, thinking I had heard them wrong.

“Yes, selfish,” they replied.

“Um, he’s a dog!” I answered.

“He’s very selfish,” they continued, “He doesn’t wait his turn for treats, he pushes past Babe to get in and out of their kennels, he’s a very selfish dog.”

“Um, ok, well, I guess we forgot to teach him how to share nicely, I’ll get right on that…” I answered sarcastically and took my angel and my selfish dog back home with me.

As I relayed this story to my friends at work at lunch, one co-worker told me about a doggie daycare center in a nearby suburb that his friends had opened a year ago. It was 2006 and business was booming and the doggie daycare concept was growing in popularity, with all of the dogs able to play and frolic together all day. Many dog owners had started taking their dogs to facilities like this for just their human workday and they picked up happy, worn out dogs each night on their way home, like children at a daycare center. Others used them like a boarding kennel when they went out of town.

I called that night and made an appointment for the mandatory “interview” to see if Babe and Dutch were doggie daycare acceptable. “They should pass with flying colors,” I told the employee, “They are perfectly behaved dogs, although I’ve been told Dutch is a little selfish, haha!”

A few days later I arrived home from work, changed my clothes and put both dogs in the car and we headed to their interview. “Make sure you answer all of their questions right on your interview,” I teased and they both wiggled their tails furiously.

We entered a large warehouse type building that had fake grass on the cement floor. I signed us in at the beautiful wooden welcome desk and was horrified to look down to see my perfectly house trained Dutch lifting his leg and peeing on the desk. “Dutch, NO!!!” I told him and his big goofy ears perked up. “You are INSIDE!” I said, ineffectively but not sure what else to say.

“First we are going to walk them around this room to see how they do on-leash with someone other than you,” an employee told me.

“Oh, that should be easy, Babe has always been perfect on or off leash and I’ve been working on getting Dutch to walk nicely too. He always had a fenced yard but he’s been with me awhile now and the three of us walk together multiple times a day.”

I watched as each of my dogs, one at a time, pulled and yanked and tried to lunge at the other dogs in the room. They looked like the dog version of an unbroken wild horse with a saddle on its back for the first time! “Oh  my gosh,” I said, “they are never like this!” I told the staff member.

Next we went to the indoor open play area, another huge warehouse space, also covered in green fake grass. To me it looked like we were clearly inside, so I was shocked at what they did next. We released both dogs from their leashes and let them run into the area. There were no other dogs in this section at the time so Babe and Dutch had it to themselves. Almost immediately each of them went in opposite directions, hunched their backs in the telltale pooping position, and each pooped inside the building as I stood and watched in shock, my mouth probably hanging open, speechless.

“I don’t know what’s going on! They are so GOOD normally! They are perfectly house trained, I don’t understand what they are doing!”

We had one final part of the interview, and we took the dogs outside to the general population of dogs who were running around and playing in a securely fenced area. There were games of chase, bitey face, and general canine frivolity happening all over the outdoor area.

Babe and Dutch's Doggie Daycare Interview
We really didn’t want to go to doggy daycare!

Babe typically loved other dogs, she had been around tons of them and played happily or just chilled with them. We even had one neighbor dog when we lived in Indiana, a Golden Retriever named Bob, whose house she would run into for cookies if I let her off her leash in their driveway. Dutch was also very used to other dogs and had hunted birds with strange dogs on bird hunting expeditions with my Dad.

Babe ran to the farthest side of the fence, huddled against it so closely that her fur was pushing through the chain links, and cowered and shook in fear. Desperate to rescue her, I turned to the employee and said, “Ok, she hates this, I’m going to just…” and was cut off mid-sentence as Dutch got into a nasty, snarling dog fight with another big dog that was pure fighting and not at all a playful bitey-face game.  The employee was right there in an instant and ended the fight and herded Dutch back into the indoor area as I went to get my shaking Babe.

“Ok, I think that’s enough, thank you for your time, I cannot IMAGINE we passed,” I said and laughed wryly.

“Oh, no, you did, your dogs are great, they are both approved and you can fill out the rest of the paperwork on the way out!” the employee said happily.

“You’re joking?” I said, “I don’t think this is for us, we are going to go home, I appreciate your time.”

I got both dogs back in the car as I shuddered, wondering what other types of dogs had passed this interview with flying colors, 100% certain that my dogs would not be going there. Not only had Dutch peed on their beautiful wood desk, they had both pooped inside, were little devil dogs on leash, Babe had quivered in terror during the play session and Dutch had gotten in a straight up dog fight! How was that approved, I wondered?

“Did you guys blow that whole thing on purpose? I take it you don’t want to go to doggy daycare?” I asked as they both started at me, tongues lolling out of their mouths, as I put the car in drive and headed home.

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Blogs, Forever Dogs: Stories of Awesome Dogs

The Pineapple Upside Down Cake Incident

It was late August during one of the magical summers of my youth when the incident known as “Snoop and the Pineapple Upside Down Cake” occurred. Although I cannot recall the exact year, it was sometime during the early 80s and we were looking forward to the ultimate end of summer event: the Lake Lenape Labor Day Picnic.

Lake Lenape in rural Andover, New Jersey, was the best place in the world to be a kid. Our house was a regular 2 story ranch home, perfectly nice, well decorated with pretty rock gardens and flowers for landscaping, but nothing you would stop and ohhh and ahhh over from the curb in terms of its grandeur.

However the scenery around us was breathtaking, what most people would expect to see in upstate New York or New England, only our mountains, forests and lakes were in a perfect little corner of the most mocked state in the country for having urban sprawl and too much pavement. Our house was lakefront with a dock that Dad built, and nestled in a valley with enormous boulders that made it undesirable if not impossible for neighbors to live too close to us. As a result we had tons of room to run, explore and build forts in the woods, always with our beloved Labrador Retriever Snoop by our side.

Snoop
Snoop during a less mischievous  moment

For the kids and parents of Lake Lenape, life revolved around the private homeowner’s association beach each summer. Every single day we would head to the beach with a thermos full of drinks and a tote bag of snacks, even though it was just a mile from our house via the road. Going home for these things would take away beach time!

Every Labor Day the homeowners association would throw a picnic and residents would all bring dishes to share. As a kid my greatest memory of the actual picnic was our delight that not only did they have a keg of beer for the adults, but we kids had our very own keg of ice cold root beer and we were giddy with the ability to fill our own plastic cups from the tap, long before every fast food restaurant offered the ability to fill your own drinks.

The year of “Snoop and the Pineapple Upside Down Cake” was like all of the others. Labor Day meant that our summer was coming to an end. Mom taught middle school English and  both of us were getting ready to give up our carefree summer days and go back to real life. As much as Mom loved teaching and was working doing what she loved, most jobs still pale in comparison to lounging on a beach with a good book.

Mom was always extremely conscious of food safety and has passed it on to me, so she always looked for dishes for the picnic that would not cause food poisoning after sitting outside for hours in the hot August sun. A pineapple upside down cake was perfect because of it’s lack of anything creamy like mayonnaise, sour cream or milk based products.

I remember waiting and watching the minutes tick away on the kitchen timer for the cake to be finished so that we could go to the beach, and then the seemingly endless wait for her to take it from the pan and flip it onto the plate to reveal the pineapple and cherries. Finally, though, the cake was done and she wrapped it in cling wrap and pushed it to to the very inside corner of the kitchen counter, safe from Snoop’s reach.

Snoop was my very first canine best friend. She hunted with Dad for ducks and geese several weekends each fall but otherwise was the perfect family dog, playing with my brothers and me all day, hanging out with Mom and protecting her from snakes while she gardened, and then attached like Velcro to Dad’s side the moment he arrived home from the office or a business trip. I was lucky to have her to myself on many occasions when my half brothers were not at our house and she was my best friend and constant playmate.

Dad always said that Snoop was the smartest dog he had ever had and the best behaved, a perfect specimen of a Labrador Retriever. Of course I had tried jokingly to prove him wrong that she was 100% perfect when I gave him the remains of my precious red Lifesaver flying disc that she had chewed to pieces while on a vacation to Button Bay at Lake Champlain in Vermont one summer. There was also the door that she had nearly torn down when she accidentally got locked in a room in our house with nobody home, but other than that, she was a very, very, very good dog if not quite perfect.

IMG_5200
My own pineapple masterpiece

And so with the pineapple upside down cake finished, Mom and I set out to the beach like we did every day, with Mom warning Snoop, “You be a good girl and you leave that cake alone,” she said as Snoop wagged her thick otter tail against the cool kitchen linoleum where she liked to hang out on hot summer days without central air conditioning.

 

Later that afternoon we arrived home from the beach and I called for Snoop as I always did when we arrived home, ready to play with her while Mom cooked dinner. Only she did not run to the door to greet us like usual.

“Snoop? Where are you?” we called several times.

No Snoop.

Worried, we searched for her, Mom searching upstairs while I looked throughout our downstairs. I found her curled up under Dad’s desk in the downstairs office, her ears flat against her head and the end of her tail thumping nervously just as I heard Mom make a discovery in the kitchen.

“What happened?” I asked, running upstairs. Snoop stood at the bottom of the stairs nervously watching, her guilty look betraying her. I got my answer when I saw my mother with the plate on which there had once been a perfect pineapple upside down cake and a mangled piece of cling wrap still stuck to it. She was mad but had a hint of a smile starting to break through on her face. “The ‘perfect’ dog somehow managed to get all the way to the far back of the counter and get the cake,” she said, “Your father should be home soon, so you stay here with her while I go to the store to do this all over again…and make sure you show him what the ‘perfect’ dog did!”

I thought about this incident last weekend as I baked my own pineapple upside down cake to take to our annual cul-de-sac gathering that we call the “Party in the Sac” that we have each year with our friend/neighbors. This was one of the first “Laugh” incidents in my Love, Laugh, Woof philosophy. After all, no matter how mad you are at losing a cake, worrying that the dogs will be ok after ingesting the entire cake, in the end you have to laugh it off and move on, adding it to the collection of stories of dogs you’ve loved over the years. For all of the good days that Snoop was indeed the “perfect” dog, this is the incident that sticks out in my mind whenever I see this cake.

IMG_5201
“Hey, that Snoop had a good idea!”

Just like Mom did nearly thirty years ago, I let the cake cool a few minutes, flipped it over onto a large serving dish, and pushed it as far back onto our counter as I could before going to get ready for the party. As they like to do whenever I am in the kitchen, both Jackson and Tinkerbell were lurking nearby waiting to see if I dropped something or offered up a treat. “Not for puppies,” I told them, “In fact, you’re coming with me while I get ready so that we do not have a do-over of the prior incident!” And so they wagged their thick otter tails on the tile kitchen floor, just like Snoop had done decades earlier, and then followed me up to the bedroom where there was not a cake waiting to be devoured.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blogs, Forever Dogs: Stories of Awesome Dogs, Rescue Spotlight

Adventures in Rescue Transport: Gypsy & Coco

Last Friday I set aside a five hour block of time to find a quiet spot in the house and do nothing but write. I have dozens of blog topics bouncing around in my brain and I am currently working on my first book. Five hours of writing time falls into the category of “do what you love and never work a day in your life” and I could not wait to get my thoughts onto the screen.

I had just returned home from getting my cardio for the day in form of a bike ride and was getting ready to shower, have lunch and settle down with my laptop. As I prepared to hop in the shower I pulled up Facebook on my phone and scrolled through my newsfeed quickly, stopping when I came to an urgent request for the transport of two dogs who were flying into a small regional airport and due to arrive in an hour. Their owner had passed away from cancer and someone had arranged for them to be adopted through Chicagoland Lab Rescue.

The situation immediately became personal as I remembered how my own mother had worried about her beloved Dutch when she was dying from Stage 4 breast cancer and how I had reassured her that Dutch would have a home with me for the rest of my life even if it meant I had to live out of my car. Fortunately I was able to keep Dutch and have a roof over our heads. The two Labradors coming in via airplane today did not have that same fortune to be able to go live with another human in their family and my heart immediately went out to them and to their late owner. It seemed in some ways more heartbreaking than the strays or the owner surrenders; these babies had a perfectly good home that was to be their forever home except that the one who had loved and cared for them had died.

“Do you have anyone yet?” I posted.

“Not yet” was the reply.

I had been adamant that my writing time was my main goal of the day, that nothing would pull me away. Skipping it was not an option. As a step-momtrepreneur I could not count the number of times I had pushed aside a day of writing to drop off a forgotten clarinet or gym uniform to school or take one of the girls to a concert or play. I loved the step-mom part of my life but it was not always conducive to finishing a book or keeping my thoughts organized long enough to publish a blog.

Despite my commitment to a day of writing, the dialogue in my head began, “Someone has to get these dogs. Surely I’m not the only one who can get them. But what if it was my dogs? What if something happened to me and my dogs’ future depended on someone clearing out their day to help them? What if they couldn’t be rescued because someone wouldn’t arrange their schedule? I can write later. It was just one afternoon to reschedule. I can write at night. I can write anytime. When Mom died her dogs had me, these dogs have nobody but volunteers to help them. These dogs need me. Their late owner needs me to help them now that she cannot.”

“I can do it” I typed.

My twelve year old step-daughter and I were the only ones at home and I decided that not only would she enjoy coming with me, that she could also be a huge help as I wrangled not one but two strange dogs. When I picked up Destiny from O’Hare airport in January I had my husband and stepson with me, and she was only one small dog.

“What are you doing right now?” I called down the hallway as I changed from my sweaty bike tank top into an old t-shirt that I didn’t mind getting dirty with dog hair and slobber.

“Getting ready to go outside,” she replied.

“Want to come with me to pick up 2 labs for the rescue at an airport?” I asked.

“YES!!” was the excited answer.

Within minutes we were in the car and headed to the Lewis University Airport in suburban Romeoville, Illinois. I had not been down that way for over a decade but I remembered it being a very small airport, nothing remotely like the situation at O’Hare where Destiny had to be collected from a special area in the baggage claim and then led across the multiple lanes of taxis, limos and busses at the arrivals area to our minivan.

Forty minutes later we pulled into the airport. As we pulled into the parking lot there were several people gathered around the back of a SUV that had it’s door open. Even if there had been other people in the small parking lot it was likely that the dogs were also in the back of that SUV. As we pulled in next to the vehicle we could see the dogs hanging out in the back, big beautiful Labradors with tongues lolling out of their mouths.

We greeted the group of humans and immediately went to meet the dogs. Gypsy, a large black female Labrador, was practically the spitting image of my Jackson. Her “brother” Coco, a large and equally beautiful chocolate Labrador, was nestled against her with his paws intertwined in hers and his big blocky head resting on her back, a truly bonded pair. They were panting heavily from both the warm summer day and the stress of their travels and the uncertain path their life had taken, but both had the typical friendly Labrador demeanor and we instantly fell in love with them.

Coco & Gypsy during our transport for Chicagoland Lab Rescue
Coco & Gypsy during our transport for Chicagoland Lab Rescue

After a little bit of coaxing we got them out of the SUV and onto the pavement, where we were gifted  with Labrador affection and took photos for the Chicagoland Lab Rescue Facebook page before loading them into the back of my own SUV. As soon as they were in my vehicle they immediately resumed their snuggling position, Coco wrapped around Gypsy with his head resting sweetly on her back. With the air conditioner as cold as it would go we headed out to the next stop in their journey: the veterinarian.

During the drive I thought about their situation and how terrifying it must be to be a rescue dog, to not be able to understand why they no longer were in their own home with a familiar owner. To fly in an airplane and then get passed around from human to human, in and out of kennels and crates, to a strange vet, with nobody to explain it all. What does that feel like to them? How terrifying must that be to an animal that thrives on routine and familiarity?

"Come on guys, you have to get out of the car!"
“Come on guys, you have to get out of the car!”

Twenty minutes later we arrived at the vet. My step-daughter and I went around to the back and readied ourselves to grab them if they tried to bolt as the lift gate was going up. As soon as I could snake my arm under the gate I grabbed their leashes to make sure that we would not lose a dog.

“Hi sweet babies,” I cooed to them, “You guys are so sweet, you’re such good dogs.” Their extra-thick otter tails thumped heavily on the floor of the SUV and Gypsy reached her paw out to me, the same gesture that Tinkerbell does with her paw when she wants to be petted. We sat and petted them for a few minutes, knowing that they were scared and had no idea what was going on in their world, and just wanting to do something normal for them like an ear rub or stroking their backs.

“Ok guys, let’s go,” I said when we were done petting them, standing up and calling them to me.

They didn’t budge.

“Come on, time to go.”

Nothing.

“Gypsy, Coco, come.”

They panted and looked past me.

“Come on guys! Down!”

“Off!”

“Come. Here. Down.” I tried all of the commands they might know. Nobody budged.

Since they were laying with their paws toward me and their tails facing into the back of my SUV I could not pick them up like I hoped I could do. They were too far into the vehicle and too large. We tickled under their tummies, gently nudged their rears. We nudged their rears a bit more, tried the side doors, lured them with treats. I used a stern voice, I used a sweet voice. We clapped and jumped up and down. Nothing worked.

Finally Coco backed up enough that I could pick him up from the side door and wrangle him onto the ground. With him weighing in at over 100 pounds it was not pretty but it worked and he had all four paws on the ground. Breathing a sigh of relief I grabbed his leash and we headed to the back to try to coax Gypsy out of the back.

Before I knew what had happened, Coco leaped back up into the back of the SUV and nestled next to Gypsy in the same spot where he had been. “No!!!!!” I exclaimed as he laid his head back onto her and nestled so close that there was not a millimeter between them. My heart broke as I thought about his fear of being more than an inch away from Gypsy. I just wanted to be able to tell them that it would all be ok, that we would keep them safe and find them a new home where they wouldn’t be scared and they could always be together, but that they had to get out of my car and go see the veterinarian before anything else could happen.

Gypsy
Gypsy

Finally I sent my step-daughter into the clinic. “Tell them that you are here with a parent who is dropping off two dogs for Chicagoland Lab Rescue and that we’ve been trying to get the dogs out of the car for the last half hour and we need some help.”

A few minutes later one of the clinic staff came to help. With her to hold onto the leash I was able to get my hands under Coco’s belly and pick him up in my arms and scoot both of us to the back. It was not the most elegant maneuver but I was able to finally pick him up all the way and set him on the ground. He immediately turned to run back to the SUV but this time I was expecting it and walked him far enough away that he could not outwit me again.

Coco
Coco

With Coco out of the car we were able to lure Gypsy up and from a laying position. We walked Coco across the driveway and up to the walkway and my heart broke at the nervous look on his face. I have never seen such worry on a dog’s face. I told my daughter to hold onto his leash with every bit of her strength, as she is petite for her age. With Coco safe and almost inside the clinic I ran over and hoisted Gypsy out. She was heavier than Coco and although once gain it was awkward and clumsy, I had her on solid ground and out of the car.

Once in the clinic we finished the paperwork and said our goodbyes to the dogs, both of us wishing that we could take them home with us, even though we both knew that there was no way we could foster or adopt them. Fostering a senior bonded pair with my young and crazy bonded pair was not an option; Tinkerbell alone would drive them both nuts with her energy. At least we could drive home knowing that they were safe and in the hands of Chicagoland Lab Rescue. It is a honor to be able to help them, to interact with them, and to share some love with them for however long we can. Those of us who volunteer for rescue are all the more fortunate for being a part of these beautiful dogs’ journeys to the happy ending that every dog deserves.

Adopt, Donate or Volunteer through Chicagoland Lab Rescue at http://www.chicagolandlabrescue.org. Can’t foster or adopt? There are other ways to volunteer like transporting, helping at events or even just sharing Facebook posts about available dogs! 

All the Dogs I've Loved Before, Blogs, Destiny, Forever Dogs: Stories of Awesome Dogs

Fulfilling Her Destiny

Philosophers have argued for years over the issue of destiny versus free will. Do we create our own paths or is there a force greater than us that propels us through life? As a dog blogger I am not here to answer that discussion, but I can tell you that the kind souls in Puerto Rico who rescued Destiny from that tree in the woods and who bestowed upon her such a powerful name hoped that they could help guide her to her own destiny.

It worked.

As I type this, Destiny is not snuggled by my side nor is she chilling in her crate a few feet away. She is in her forever home across town from me where she is an only dog in a household of people who love her.

Destiny waiting for her treats at the bank
Destiny waiting for her treats at the bank

After Destiny’s leap over our gate, which I failed to mention in my prior blog was during a visit with a prospective family who had come to meet her,  I decided I could not let her go. I lobbied to keep her here with us and tried to overcome my husband’s more logical objections.

Her freedom from kennel rest meant she could go places and run and play like a normal dog and the months of trust that we had built together combined with fun things to go and do meant that our bond strengthened daily. She grew more confident and snuggly and in less than a week I was even more head-over-heels in love with our petite little island dog as we went for long walks, car rides and other mother-dog adventures.

Crashed out after a game of ball
Crashed out after a game of ball

My husband, though, was adamantly sticking to our decision to let her find her forever home. “There is a family out there who desperately needs her to fill a spot in their home, just like we needed Jax and Tink to fill a spot in ours,” he told me repeatedly, “We love her but we don’t need her like another family needs her.” I knew deep down that we should not have three dogs, particularly with me focusing entirely on writing as a profession, but my bond with Destiny was starting to override the logical part of my mind.

Destiny loves this ball!
Destiny loves this ball!

While we went back and forth on the topic and I tried to change his mind, I volunteered to take Destiny to an adoption event that was scheduled to occur a few miles from my house. As much as I wanted to keep her I was not going to stand in the way of her finding an adopter and a local open house it meant that a nice family from the country or our small suburb might adopt her since I could not picture her as a city dog after her fence hopping incident. To the west of us it is quite rural even though we are about 50 miles west of Chicago.

A few minutes after I arrived at the adoption event a familiar looking family arrived and Destiny and I greeted them immediately. I quickly remembered that I had met them at a different adoption event earlier this year. I had liked them immediately and was touched at the love they had for their dogs who had gone to the Rainbow Bridge, including their most recent black Labrador who they had lost to cancer.

I think it was the fact that the husband is a pheasant hunter just like my own Dad, though, that really made our meeting stick out in my mind. There is just something about the love between a man and his bird dog that I understand after a lifetime of seeing my own father and the love he has for his dogs. I don’t mean the type of bird dog who lives in a kennel outside with an assortment of other dogs; I mean the type of bird dog who hunts a few times a year, sleeps on the bed and is attached at the hip to his or her human.

They spent a lot of time with Destiny, walked her around the property of the event, sat with her, played with her and petted her. They met the other dogs and spent time with them but then came back for more time with Destiny. They talked to me at length about her background, her time with me, her medical issues and I shared everything that I knew. I shared how far she had come, not just geographically but physically and mentally. “She is a very special dog,” I told them, thinking about how those same words from my breeder brought me to my own Jackson when we were choosing him from his litter.

I was elated when they told me that they wanted to adopt her but were going out of town for a few days and wanted to make sure she would be ok with their six cats before completing the adoption. It was a valid concern because so far I was not sure she knew exactly what a cat was. She had spent a little bit of time with our rescued cat Nala, but Nala has an entire section of the house to herself as a retreat when she needs to get away from our Tinkerbell, so I was not entirely sure how Destiny would be with a braver cat. There was also an issue of timing since my family was going out of town for ten days for vacation and Destiny would be going to a fellow foster mom’s house while our own dog sitter stayed with Jackson and Tinkerbell.

Fortunately Destiny’s new family volunteered to be Destiny’s puppy sitter while we were on vacation which would give them a chance to see how she would do with their cats. Although not something normally done with Chicagoland Lab Rescue, in the end it turned out to be exactly the thing that all of us needed. While my family and I were roaming Walt Disney World and spending time with my family in Florida, Destiny’s new family was falling head over heels in love with her. I smiled each time I received a text and photo from them, sharing with me how much they loved her. They were able to see how she acted with their cats and to consult some behavioral experts for tips on socializing the cats with her and I was able to keep my mind occupied by vacation  instead of getting used to a home without her in it.

Of course the day that I took her there two weeks ago was more difficult than I had imagined. I started crying the moment I began to gather her things to take with her, sobbing hysterically with giant tears rolling steadily down my face as I picked up and folded her special yellow blanket that I had purchased for her as soon as I learned she was coming to me. I gathered her food and her paperwork and took it to my car, barely able to see through the tears. I sat in the driveway with her in the front seat, forcing myself to turn the key in the ignition to take her to their home. I managed to stay tear-free at their home but when I arrived home without her and put her bowls in the dishwasher for cleaning I lost my composure once more. I cried until I could not cry anymore and then my sweet Tinkerbell came to console me. At least I think she was trying to console me by sprawling across my lap so that I could hold her favorite moose antler while she chewed it.

Destiny napping in her new home
Destiny napping in her new home

Last night I went to Destiny’s new home to process her adoption paperwork and this time my eyes were dry. I had been counting down the moments all day until I could see her and right away I could tell how happy she was to be in her new home. She was confident and trusting and relaxed just like she had been at my house which told me that things had fallen into place just like they should. As much as I love her and she will forever be in my heart and my soul, she is in the right place and doesn’t need to share the attention with big personalities like Jackson and Tinkerbell like she would in our home. Her forever humans are all hers and I have a feeling she is going to blossom more each and every day with them.

Destiny has found her forever home in a family of dog lovers who will never treat her badly, never tie her up to a tree to die with a bag around her snout, and never add another scar to her beautiful body. They will never do any of the things that happened to her before she was rescued on that November day. She has been adopted into a loving, safe forever home where she can be spoiled with toys and treats, where she will be petted gently and with love and compassion and tended to with the best care possible, just like every single dog deserves as their own destiny.

If you would like to support Chicagoland Labrador Rescue’s other Labrador Retrievers click here to go to their site: http://www.chicagolandlabrescue.org/ and click the Donate button on their site. To support Love Puerto Rico Goldens, the rescue organization that initially saved Destiny in Puerto Rico, click here to follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LovePuertoRicoGoldens. Both organizations are always in need of financial donations in order to continue the amazing work that they do to help save Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers.

All the Dogs I've Loved Before, Blogs, Destiny, Forever Dogs: Stories of Awesome Dogs

One Giant Leap for Destiny

Destiny is officially off of her mandatory kennel rest following her heart worm treatment and has been enjoying longer walks and some games of fetch in our fenced in yard. Along with her newfound freedom to run and frolic, we have also enjoyed spring weather with temperatures into the 60s over the last few days. Mother nature’s timing was perfect for once.

Destiny is learning to love snuggling
Destiny is learning to love snuggling

Along with these lifestyle changes I have been lucky to experience some personality changes in Destiny. Walks are magical for dogs since they get to work both their bodies and their minds and as a result, Destiny has been much more relaxed and is showing signs of being a full-fledged snuggle pup. The dog who would not turn her back on anyone when she first arrived here and who leaped away if you touched her anywhere other than her head has now taken to laying in my lap like a large baby. She has also learned the joy of a tummy rub and trusts us enough to lay on her back with her four legs up in the air to indicate that it is time to scratch her now fur covered belly. I suspect she has learned this from watching Tinkerbell.

Destiny and her pile of toys
Destiny and her pile of toys

Yesterday, however, we learned something new and most definitely not ideal: Destiny can jump a four foot fence. We also learned that my husband can jump a four foot fence, which he did as he followed her out of our yard.

We were enjoying the beautiful spring Sunday with Destiny in our back yard and she was having a blast playing fetch with the new Jolly ball with the rope through the center that Jackson received for his fourth birthday last week. It was beautiful watching her stretch her legs and run through the grass without a care in the world. As she ran with enthusiasm I pictured her learning to do flyball or agility.

Over the last six weeks with Destiny I have noticed that she has a great sense of smell and is often sniffing around the deck trying to get to the rabbits who must live under it. A few days ago she chased a rabbit around our swimming pool but she immediately came back to me as she always does with a few clicks of my tongue and the command, “Destiny, come!” In fact I have marveled at her amazing recall and joked to Jackson and Tinkerbell that “Destiny comes to momma better than you two do.” She has sniffed around the perimeter of the fence but never jumped up or put her feet on it or given us any reason to think that she wanted to leave our property.

I was only mildly concerned when she jumped up against the fence yesterday the first time, jumping high enough that I could see that she could get over it if she really tried and if she really wanted to, but fairly confident that she would not actually do it.  I was wrong. She did it, from a sitting position no less, up and over the fence.

Instead of landing in our neighbor’s yard and being contained in their fence she landed between the fences and had an escape route through them to the road. Fortunately she did not choose that path because her attention was focused on a rabbit who ran under the fence into our neighbor’s yard. Destiny, who it turns out is equally agile getting under a fence as she is going over one, shimmied under the fence where the ground had eroded a bit, in pursuit of the rabbit and found herself in our neighbor’s yard with my husband right behind her.

For now it is back to the long training lead when we go into the fenced yard for our agile little foster dog since she showed the typical Labrador selective hearing during her adventure. It is time to break out the training treats and work on a reliable recall and to make sure that her quick response to “Destiny come” was not simply a coincidence caused by the fact that the subzero temps were freezing her little paws. She seemed pretty pleased with herself and her adventure as she trotted back inside the house with us yesterday with my husband’s firm grip on her collar, as if she was happy that someone finally cared if she ran away, but this little yellow Labrador has come way too far to be lost again.

estiny the Yellow Labrador
All the Dogs I've Loved Before, Blogs, Destiny, Forever Dogs: Stories of Awesome Dogs

Destiny the Yellow Labrador, One Month Later

We are just a few days away from marking the 5th week since our yellow Labrador foster dog Destiny came to stay with us. We are also officially counting down one week from today when she can have her post-heartworm treatment checkup to get the all clear to run and frolic like a normal dog.

Destiny came to us on January 31, 2015 on a flight from Puerto Rico as a blizzard was heading to the area. The snow literally started to fall as my husband parked at the cell phone lot of O’Hare airport to wait for my call. I watched the snow begin as I waited nervously at the airline parcel pickup area. Her first paw prints on land in the continental United States were on a snow covered airport sidewalk as we hustled to get to the designated “Canine Relief Area” accompanied by an urban soundtrack of the road noise of busses, people shouting and horns honking. I cannot imagine what it was like for her to step out of the airport and into such a cold and confusing scene.

A long, long way from Puerto Rico!
A long, long way from Puerto Rico!

During her first few days with us Destiny explored her new world and raced around the snow chasing snowballs and figuring out this peculiar land that was covered in ice. Her snow zoomies came to a screeching halt, however, when we learned that she was still heartworm positive and had not been treated like we thought. Because heartworms are literally growing in a dog’s heart and taking up space that should be free to pump blood, dogs who are heartworm positive should have limited activity even before treatment occurs.

Fortunately the veterinarian was able to schedule her treatment quickly and Destiny headed off for a two-night stay at the veterinary clinic. When I brought her home post-treatment I was grateful for the pain meds that were

Destiny's first experience with subzero temps
Destiny’s first experience with subzero temps

prescribed for her as they also made her drowsy and helped her sleep through the worm die off going on in her body. Once the pain meds were finished we worked on simple training and introduced her to Kongs and West Paw toys filled with frozen yumminess and a treat releasing puzzle game to work her mind and alleviate some boredom.

Surrounded by her favorite toys
Surrounded by her favorite toys

With a week to go we are expanding her time out of her crate a bit more, keeping her on leash in the house but spending hours sitting on the floor with her over the course of each day while we rub her ears and pet her tummy as she chews her favorite moose antler. I’ve started very short walks as long as she walks quietly and does not try to run and it warms my heart to see her checking out new places and smells.

Part of me feels immense guilt each time I look at her in her crate even though I know that heartworm treatment is a very serious matter because dogs are at risk for blood clots while the worms are dying. This beautiful dog has come way too far and been through too much have something go wrong and if that means she spends a month on strict kennel rest, then that is what we will do. My husband reminds me of the fact that she was originally found tied to a tree with her mouth bound by a plastic bag and left to die, so a warm, dry crate with her own special blanket in suburban Chicago isn’t that bad of a way to spend a month, particularly when the temperatures have been as much as 90 degrees colder than her native Puerto Rico.

Before and after, her coat is coming in nicely and we are working on getting more meat on those ribs.
Before and after, her coat is coming in nicely and we are working on getting more meat on those ribs.

Thanks to a steady diet of Canine Caviar Wild Ocean grain free dry holistic kibble her ribs are no longer protruding from her body and her once naked underside is nearly covered with fur. Her coat is becoming thick and beautiful and the various tones of yellow are deepening in color. She no longer smells even though she has not had a bath since her arrival, her breath is odorless and she has the legendary small and firm Canine Caviar poop.

Over the last month we have noticed scars all over her body. They cover her front legs and there are some on her head and her face as well as one on her lip. No amount of high quality food will be able to heal them or make the fur grow back, nor will it bring back the many teeth that are missing from her mouth, including all along the lower front part of her jaw between her canine teeth. Love and patience, however, are healing some of the scars, at least on the inside where it matters.

Chilling with the family
Chilling with the family

Destiny is still jumpy when being petted but she has relaxed significantly. Her submissive hand licking has diminished and she has picked up the habit of sitting between our feet and legs with her back to us so that we can pet and massage her back and shoulders. She is getting used to us petting her back legs and the lower part of her back by her tail, places that she let us know were entirely off limits when she arrived. She loves human attention and wants to be with us all the time but she is not ready to snuggle or be hugged, and that’s ok. Most dogs do not like to be held tightly or hugged too much so we respect the ways that she wants to interact with us but we also want to prepare her for people who do not realize that hugs are not a dog’s favorite thing so that if she comes across a human who hugs and squeezes her that she’s had some experiences that turned out ok.

Beautiful Destiny
Beautiful Destiny

Of course we have had the conversation that all foster families probably have: should we keep her as our own dog? My heart says yes but the practical dog owner in me says no. It would be easy to pay the fee to Chicagoland Lab Rescue and join the ranks of foster failures across the country who fell so much in love with their foster dogs that they could not say goodbye. But the logical side remembers the lifelong commitment I’ve made to Jackson and Tinkerbell to provide the best care that I can and that adding another dog to our family could jeopardize my financial ability to provide that life for them.

It is not going to be easy to say goodbye to this sweet girl who now follows me around the house, with whom I am starting to develop the dog mom bond. But the key to saving these homeless dogs is to push those emotions aside and summon our inner strength for them, opening up our homes and our hearts as if they were our own and then allowing them to go to their forever home with humans who are actively seeking the next canine love of their life, just like I have found the canine loves of mine with Jackson and Tinkerbell.

All the Dogs I've Loved Before, Blogs, Destiny, Forever Dogs: Stories of Awesome Dogs

A Rescued Dog Named Destiny

As I write this there is a sweet yellow dog dozing off in her crate a few feet from me. Unlike most dogs who nap the day away, she has been awake all day, playing with the toys she has found in the house, exploring different smells, watching our black Labradors Jax & Tink to see what they are up to, frolicking in the snow and best of all, getting tons of human affection. As I type she is trying desperately to hold her head up but the need for sleep is just too powerful and she has finally laid her pretty yellow head on her paws and relaxed.

I have never seen a dog so desperately trying to stay awake and I am not sure if she is afraid to let her guard down or if she simply does not want to miss anything. Either way it is a bittersweet thing to watch; sad because of what she has been through but happy because I know that she has nothing to fear while she is in our home. My job is to help teach her that she is safe.

Destiny came to us two days ago on a flight from Puerto Rico. In November she was discovered in the woods by a woman who was taking care of some stray puppies. As she took the puppies some food she came across a small female yellow Labrador who had been tied to a tree with a bag tied around her snout so that she could not eat, drink, chew off her leash to free herself or even pant to cool her body in the hot climate. She had clearly been left to die a slow and miserable death.

After being rescued she was named Destiny in the hopes that her destiny would change and that she would find a happier life and a safe place to live. After several months of fostering and boarding in Puerto Rico it was arranged that she would fly to Chicago to our local Lab rescue with whom I am a fairly new volunteer.

Destiny loves moose antlers
Destiny loves moose antlers

As soon as I saw Destiny’s story I offered to foster her. As a dog lover who is active on social media I see heart wrenching things done to dogs on a regular basis and I long to help them all. This is one of those stories where I could actually help. Looking at the photos of this small female Labrador tied to a tree I wanted to just pet her and tell her that it would be ok, that nobody would do this to her ever again.

And so my husband and I found ourselves at O’Hare airport on Saturday, He dropped me off and went to wait in the cell phone lot. We were playing beat the clock with a blizzard warning and a foot of snow in the immediate forecast.

I had to laugh as I carried a large tote with a leash, treats, collar, harness, poop bags and a bottle of water to the baggage claim; it was not my normal stuff to have in an airport. I found the place where I was to meet Destiny and waited, as nervous as I was while waiting for my now husband to pick me up on our first date. After all, I knew this dog from photos and had heard her story. She had just finished a long flight in the cargo hold of an airplane and was being greeted by a strange woman in a loud and completely unnatural environment for a dog.

After twenty minutes a man from the airline headed toward me with a large dog crate on a cart. As they got closer and closer I could hear Destiny’s strong Labrador tail banging against the side of the crate, going a mile a minute like my Tink’s does. I bent over to look in the crate and there she was, a skinny but wiggling yellow dog who licked my hand nervously through the kennel door. I hooked my leash to her collar and quickly got her into our harness & got her arranged so that she was attached at both the collar and harness. The last thing I wanted was for her to bolt into traffic at the airport with a blizzard looming.

After a potty break in the dog relief area I texted my husband and told him to come get us. I stood in the familiar third row of the arrivals area waiting for his car, again laughing slightly at the thought that I had never stood there and waited with a dog and a big crate. He pulled up, we got her into our own travel crate, put her airplane crate into the car next to her and we drove off into the Chicago night as the first snowflakes began to fall.

Destiny the yellow Labrador
Destiny the yellow Labrador

Two days later Destiny has started to flourish and relax. She seems to be house trained, she has found all of Jax and Tink’s toys and played with them, chewing on antlers and tossing their Planet Dog ball around with delight. Like queen Elsa she arrived just as our world became frozen and she has experienced snow for the first time, scared at first but now dashing through it like a normal dog who just has fun on her mind. She has had lots of love and affection from all of the humans in our family, from ear rubs to tummy scratches. Her belly is full of organic Canine Caviar dog food, we’ve practiced the sit command as well as “come” and discovered a love of Fruitables snacks. In general she has been able to live the life that every single dog deserves.

Soon she will start to meet families who might be the one for her forever home. We are just a transitional place for her, a place for her to stay until her own home and her true Destiny reveals itself to us. In the meantime I get to love up on her just like I wanted to when I heard her story, letting her know that the world has as many good people as it does evil and that this is just the start for her of a new way of life, one where she no longer has to fear falling asleep.