Storytime: Tough Love

From Lost Souls: FOUND! Inspiring Stories About Boston Terriers

Rescue: Boston Terrier Rescue of North Carolina

Tough Love 

Puppy mill Boston terrier

It all began with Macy, a Boston Terrier with a strong will and vigorous personality. At the age of five, she was diagnosed with a recurring mast cell tumor—a malignant and life-threatening cancer common to the breed. Typical of the Boston spirit, however, Macy healed beautifully after having her right rear leg amputated. Soon she was running, jumping and even catching rabbits. Macy recovered as though she never had all four legs; her fervor for life was unhampered.

Even as Macy thrived, I couldn’t control my fear that despite Macy’s favorable prognosis her genetics were against us. The same genes that caused the first tumor could potentially produce another one. In my mind, Macy’s life was expiring, our time together fleeting. I grieved the impending loss of my beloved baby every day as I studied her face and tried to preserve as much of her in my memory as I could, only to find those memories collecting in a leaky bucket. After a year and a half of despair I decided that I needed a pup, ready and able to help me rebound should the unthinkable occur.

The profile of my new addition was this: a young female Boston Terrier, smaller than Macy’s 16 pounds, gentle in nature and disinterested in rough canine play so as to not to bully my three-legged, seven-year-old angel. I thought that it would be tough to find a Boston fitting this description since the breed is typically high strung, 20-25 pounds, and the younger the pup the higher the energy level. Regardless, I persevered.

It took about three months of searching but I finally came across a dog that appeared to fit my desires. I saw her on the roster of available foster dogs at Boston Terrier Rescue of North Carolina. She was confiscated by authorities from a puppy mill in South Carolina where she had been tied to a tree with no shelter and used as a breeding dog. The description painted a picture of a shy and delicate girl, which would work well for Macy, so I grabbed the phone and made arrangements to adopt her.

I picked her up on a cold winter day from her loving foster mom in South Carolina. As I held her on the drive home and pondered a name for her, she curled her tiny black body into a ball as if trying to make herself disappear. I studied her sad eyes and furrowed brow, which told me that everything was big, unfamiliar and scary for her. She reminded me of a small sea creature just emerging from its shell after having spent its entire life in seclusion at the bottom of the ocean floor. She was a beautiful creation of nature—hidden, neglected and fragile. She was a little black “Pearl.”

My first instinct was to treat Pearl with constant doting, kisses and labored goodbyes in the morning, just as I always did with Macy. Macy was confident, independent and housetrained, and easily entertained herself by playing only with her designated toys. Since they were both Boston Terriers, I had no reason to believe Pearl would be any different. However, Pearl quickly proved to me that kisses and doting would not be enough to help her leave her past behind.

 The lasting impact of her traumatic puppyhood manifested itself in many ways and it broke my heart. During the evenings she stayed in a fetal position on the couch, looking as though she wished she could melt into the cushions. She refused to potty outside, and when I left for work, she destroyed anything she could get her mouth on, including shoes, the arms of chairs, the phone charger, my glasses, and, eventually electrical cords.

I knew that I had to do something to protect her from herself and quickly realized crate training would be the best option. The first two days in a wire crate were horrific. I came home to the crate partially dismantled and Pearl’s forehead bleeding. Not knowing what else to do I consulted a dog trainer, who turned out to be exactly what we needed.

The trainer quickly taught me that love comes in a variety of forms and is truly defined by the perception of the recipient. He explained that a dog like Pearl needs a leader and, by kissing her and picking her up, I was showing her submission. She was already a lump of nerves, and my gestures were compounding her fears. He taught me that the way to pull her out of her slump was to show her that I was in charge and able to keep her safe. With Pearl I needed to learn to be the alpha.

I quickly made changes according to the trainer’s instructions. I stopped carrying Pearl and instead gently led her outside on her leash. My gushing good-byes became a non-event (apparently making a big deal out of leaving was also triggering Pearl’s anxiety), and I only praised her when she truly deserved it. One of the hardest things for me was to ignore her when she clearly wanted me to pick her up.

Most useful was the advice the trainer gave about crate training. He taught me that a combination of positive reinforcement and repetition could help turn Pearl’s perspective on her crate from an undesirable place to a safe place. Additionally I learned that getting Pearl in and out of the crate should be done without fanfare to reinforce the idea that crating was no big deal. We switched from a wire to a plastic crate to keep Pearl from hurting herself, and then practiced having Pearl “kennel up” (enter the kennel) and “kennel out” (leave the kennel). The idea was that entering wouldn’t be so traumatic if she was familiar with exiting after only seconds or minutes. I also started feeding her in her crate to reinforce the idea that the crate was a happy place.

A paragraph or two doesn’t give justice to the work we did as it took a lot of time, patience and perseverance. After a week of very intensive focus I was uplifted to see the new training techniques paying off. Pearl stopped showing signs of distress inside the crate—no tossing her blankets or turning over her water bowl. Within two weeks she began entering the crate without being told. Crating kept her safe and secure while eliminating the destruction she had been causing. Within a month she was comfortably moving around the house when we were home, and the progress she made in her crate was amazing. She even started playing with toys!

These days Pearl is a happy, “whole” dog. She is still a bit skittish and clingy, but she has also learned love. She spends her days romping around with her best friend Macy, who, despite my fears, has showed no signs of genetic malfunction.

As for me, it turns out that my furry children are polar opposites even though they are of the same breed, which allows them to each uniquely contribute to my life. Macy is my “pickup truck.” I rely on her and she never lets me down. Pearl is my “sports car.” She’s a luxury that brings joy into my life and I feel spoiled when I spend time with her. While Macy taught me about hope, Pearl taught me humility and patience. The difference between these look-alike dogs has somehow brought a new balance to my life that strengthens me wherever I go. –Dana Harrington

Storytime: The Best Listener

Originally published in Lost Souls: FOUND! Inspiring Stories of Adopted Boston Terriers.

The Best Listener

 Jace

 When Jace came into the rescue group, he was thin and timid. His foster family helped him to put on some weight, and he quickly became a cute, fun-loving guy with an “attitude.” When we met him for the first time, we were impressed with the way that he walked with an air of purpose and determination, as if he were on a mission.

 Jace was relinquished by a family who found him too challenging. They couldn’t handle both him and their new baby. The family said he was a handful, and perhaps not very smart. Upon surrendering him they complained that he just wouldn’t listen.

When we heard about Jace through the rescue group, we simply couldn’t resist! He was adorable, and it turns out that his previous family was wrong. It wasn’t that he was stupid or a poor listener, the problem was that he was DEAF!

Since he came into our home, we have all learned sign language. To an outsider, the signs look very much like standard sign language, but we’ve simplified some of the hand signals to make learning easier for Jace. The signal is also accompanied by a verbal command. This way, our other Boston Bentley also learns the signals. Both dogs are now so familiar with the hand signs that we rarely bother with the verbal cues around the house. The signal for “no” sometimes has to be accompanied by a squirt from the water bottle (NEVER in the face) as a physical reminder that Jace is active in a behavior that is not allowed.

We have made up signs for my husband’s name as well as mine, Jace’s and Bentley’s. We try to use them every time we talk to Jace about each other. When it’s dark, we communicate with him through flashes from a laser pointer, or if he’s in the yard, we flash the outside light as a signal for him to look at the door for his next command or simply come inside. When Jace is confused, he looks to Bentley for “listening” cues, and Bentley happily shows him what to do next.

We don’t know if all deaf dogs are similar to Jace, but for him, being deaf is barely an inconvenience. We know that he is deaf, but sometimes we accuse him of faking…for a dog that can’t hear something hit the floor, it’s amazing how quickly he can find food that we drop!

Jace thrives on touch when you talk to him and likes to know where everyone is at all times. He’ll regularly search the house to check on everyone’s location and then go back to his resting spot. We have two older pugs that sleep downstairs, and often at night Jace will accompany them to their kennel so that he can see where they were going. He is a very loving, concerned companion and will not go to sleep at night until he knows that everyone is in his or her place.

One of Jace’s favorite things to do is to climb into our laps and lean against our chests so that he can “have a talk” with us. His favorite person to “talk” to is my husband, Jerry, who makes Jace so content that he sometimes even falls asleep on him! Other naps are taken with Bentley, either in the afternoon or in front of the fire after a bath.

Jace’s former family was right about one thing… he can be a bit of a handful during his waking hours! We’ve had to “Jace-proof” our home since he’ll eat practically anything: buttons off baseball hats, paper from our printer… essentially anything that he can reach is fair game. Just as he keeps his mischievous eyes on us, we keep our eyes on him with a spray bottle close by, just in case…

Despite his occasional “sense of humor,” Jace is very easy to love and has become a wonderful pet. “Talking” to Jace is sometimes difficult, but one thing is always clear: he never misunderstands a smile, and he always knows how to bring one out during a conversation! 

Gerald and Leatha Pierce

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In Memoriam: Zoey

Zoey, a Boston Terrier puppy mill survivor, brought a lot of joy to the life of her momma, Jean. We were so sorry to hear of her passing, and in memory of her, we wanted to share her story here with you.

Not Your Run-of-the-Mill Girl

Zoey MidAmerica Boston Terrier Rescue

Zoey spent the first six years of her life producing puppies for a backyard breeder in Nebraska. She ended up in a shelter, but was taken into foster care by MidAmerica Boston Terrier Rescue (MABTR) because she was simply too frightened for anyone to want to adopt her at the shelter. She was ready for her forever home shortly thereafter.

Zoey’s website adoption biography described a very shy, scared little dog who shook and shivered over almost anything. She’d likely not been out of her cage often and didn’t appear to trust humans much.

We knew we were her forever family when we read that Zoey needed a “kind of” quiet home, preferably with another dog. It said that a stay-at-home adult would also be good. We fit the bill, so my husband drove 2½ hours to pick up our new girl.

All our pets have been beloved family members, but never have we delighted in an animal’s development as we have with Zoey. Little antics like dragging clothes from the laundry basket or taking leashes, brushes, etc. from the dog tub into the living room as though she were having a party have us laughing.

When we installed a pet door, Zoey was the first one to figure it out, even though our other Boston, Josie, is very outgoing. Zoey amused us by going in and out and in and out repeatedly to show off the fact that she wasn’t afraid to use the new exit-and-entry system.

Zoey keeps numerous toys in our basement window well and likes to jump in and play with them every now and then. Watching her from the basement perspective is a special treat.

These are the joys of adopting a puppy mill dog. When I look at her sometimes and think what her life must have been like and what it is now, I’m so grateful we found her.

We lost Zoey for four days when she slipped out the garage door the first summer we had her. Those were the longest four days ever. We posted lost dog signs all around the community, and many people helped us search. Our local humane society put out a bulletin, and the radio stations made announcements.

Finally we received a call from a lady who thought she had spotted a little black-and-white dog at a gulch about six or seven blocks from our home. I was at work, but my husband went immediately to the location. Sure enough, there was Zoey. She was happy to be rescued all over again, and we were so excited that we had to tell everyone we had our Boston baby back.

Zoey is no run-of-the-mill dog, to be sure. She’s our special girl. –Jean Lakner 

Storytime: Eyes Only For You

Read this and other awesome rescue stories in Lost Souls: FOUND! Inspiring Stories of Adopted Boston Terriers.

 

Featured rescue: MidAmerica Boston Terrier Rescue

Eyes Only for You

Rescued Boston Terrier Stories

I didn’t grow up with dogs, and never really wanted one until my kids started getting older and more independent. I realized that my growing unease was the all-too-common “empty nest” feeling parents experience as their kids become adults. I decided a dog might be just the thing to create some new noise in our home. My plan was to begin researching breeds so that in six years when my youngest graduated I would maybe have found the right dog and be ready to adopt (yes, I’m a planner)…

Although I thought a dog would be a long ways off for us, I kept an eye on petfinder.com regularly to see what dogs were available for adoption. After only a few weeks, I narrowed my search down to a few different breeds. I decided to go with a Boston Terrier, not only because of all their wonderful qualities, but also because it was the breed that my now-deceased mother had when she was a little girl. I was looking for a dog with a medium build that loved walks and car rides and people in general. There was only one hitch—I couldn’t stand the big, protruding eyes! They just freaked me out.

After weeks of looking through Boston Terrier profiles online, I came across a story of a 3-year-old named Odie who was surrendered because his family had had a baby. His side view portrait showed a cute, shmooshed face and stocky build, and from what I could see in the pictures, his eyes didn’t seem to protrude. Though my youngest was still in school, I couldn’t help but change my plan and apply for this dog. He looked like he had so much spunk and would be fun to have around!

I went to his foster parent’s home to meet him and there, from the top of the stairs, he stood smiling at me… with eyes that looked like they were about to fall out of his head! They were so “googly” that I couldn’t even tell which way he was looking! My heart sank, but before I knew it, he was in my arms, washing my face with slobbery doggie love.

After such an outpouring I was helpless but to “look the other way” about his eyes and take him home. Today Odie’s eyes are my favorite part of him. I think they are beautiful. They talk to me! I even made a song up about them to the tune of “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. It goes “Sweet Odie Pie, you’re the cutest little guy, you have the most beautiful eyes, sweet Odie pie.” Something like that…

I really lucked out on such a great dog with amazing character and expressive eyes. These days I wonder whether he thought I was the one with the weird-looking eyes when I first met him. If so, I’m glad he was able to overlook it because I couldn’t “see” a future without him! –Kirsten Lahr

Storytime: Eyes Only For You

Read this and other wonderful rescue stories in Lost Souls: FOUND! Inspiring Stories of Adopted Boston Terriers

 

Featured Rescue: MidAmerica Boston Terrier Rescue

 

Eyes Only For You

I didn’t grow up with dogs, and never really wanted one until my kids started getting older and more independent. I realized that my growing unease was the all-too-common “empty nest” feeling parents experience as their kids become adults. I decided a dog might be just the thing to create some new noise in our home. My plan was to begin researching breeds so that in six years when my youngest graduated I would maybe have found the right dog and be ready to adopt (yes, I’m a planner)…

Although I thought a dog would be a long ways off for us, I kept an eye on petfinder.com regularly to see what dogs were available for adoption. After only a few weeks, I narrowed my search down to a few different breeds. I decided to go with a Boston Terrier, not only because of all their wonderful qualities, but also because it was the breed that my now-deceased mother had when she was a little girl. I was looking for a dog with a medium build that loved walks and car rides and people in general. There was only one hitch—I couldn’t stand the big, protruding eyes! They just freaked me out.

After weeks of looking through Boston Terrier profiles online, I came across a story of a 3-year-old named Odie who was surrendered because his family had had a baby. His side view portrait showed a cute, shmooshed face and stocky build, and from what I could see in the pictures, his eyes didn’t seem to protrude. Though my youngest was still in school, I couldn’t help but change my plan and apply for this dog. He looked like he had so much spunk and would be fun to have around!

I went to his foster parent’s home to meet him and there, from the top of the stairs, he stood smiling at me… with eyes that looked like they were about to fall out of his head! They were so “googly” that I couldn’t even tell which way he was looking! My heart sank, but before I knew it, he was in my arms, washing my face with slobbery doggie love.

After such an outpouring I was helpless but to “look the other way” about his eyes and take him home. Today Odie’s eyes are my favorite part of him. I think they are beautiful. They talk to me! I even made a song up about them to the tune of “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. It goes “Sweet Odie Pie, you’re the cutest little guy, you have the most beautiful eyes, sweet Odie pie.” Something like that…

I really lucked out on such a great dog with amazing character and expressive eyes. These days I wonder whether he thought I was the one with the weird-looking eyes when I first met him. If so, I’m glad he was able to overlook it because I couldn’t “see” a future without him!

Kirsten Lahr

Storytime: Life Starts at 12

It has come to our attention that the photo of our Lost Souls: FOUND! alumnus, Mom Mom (now deceased), is entered into a photo contest. What a great way to remember this brave survivor and honor her family, who has done much to help dogs in need. Click on the photo to go to the contest FB page and then “like” it to help her to win!

The story below about Mom Mom was featured in Lost Souls: FOUND! Inspirational Stories of Adopted Boston Terriers, our first book ever!

One December night I received an urgent call asking me to pick up an elderly female Boston Terrier who’d recently been dropped off at the county animal shelter and was not doing well. She possibly had mange and needed to be rescued quickly. Seeing as the shelter was about an hour away and scheduled to close in an hour, my husband and I made the quick decision to go and get her. We expected the coordinator from the rescue group that initially contacted us to call back with instructions on where to take this dog, but instead she asked if we could possibly keep her as a foster, as it turned out that all the other foster parents were full. We had just adopted our own puppy mill rescue a few weeks prior, but this old gal sounded like she was in need of desperate care, and we couldn’t abandon her.

When I saw her at the shelter, I couldn’t keep back my tears. A mangy Boston Terrier stood before me in a worn sweater, shaking and in terrible condition. Her eyes were sad, and she was missing most of her hair. The owner surrender paperwork said, “Kristi, 12 years old, likes car rides.” That was it.

At home we set her up in a large crate with lots of blankets away from the other dogs, so Kristi wouldn’t be scared. I was afraid to take off the sweater but knew it had to go. I carefully peeled it away and was absolutely horrified at what I saw. She was covered in puss-filled sores, almost completely bald from her neck back, and had scratched herself raw. She was actively oozing from her head to her tail, and the sweater had been on her for so long that it was almost impossible to remove completely.

She was so dear and so passive. She let us examine her without a sound. She literally looked relieved and thankful. I stared at her little face, and I said to her, “Mom Mom, you are home now, and we are going to make sure that you get better. We will take care of you.” This dog was clearly in need of a major change, and “Mom Mom” seemed so appropriate that it became her name from that point on.

We took Mom Mom to the vet two days later and had her evaluated. She had the following medical problems: ulcers in both eyes; severe gingivitis with advanced tooth decay; an infected growth in her mouth; yeast infections in both ears; atopic dermatitis on her skin with possible mange; open wounds on her back and hind quarters; arthritis; a heart murmur; and 28 allergies (we found this out after extensive allergy testing).

We treated her for all of her major health issues and then began taking her to The Animal Wellness Center Holistic Vet in PA. Mom Mom began her recovery and has continued her treatment without complaint. She recovered from most of her ailments, although a year later we are still treating her for allergies with shots every two weeks and a special diet with supplements. Mom Mom has grown most of her hair back, and the sores and ulcers are long gone.

The irony is that Mom Mom was considered unadoptable because of her age and medical issues, yet she has thrived with us. The shelter had an overabundance of younger, healthier dogs arriving daily, which required them to make the tough decision to euthanize her. Thankfully they called our rescue group first, and instead, Mom Mom is now considered a permanent foster dog and has become the queen of our house. She loves meatloaf and peanut butter, and nothing makes her happier than a big pile of blankets.

While we occasionally wonder about Mom Mom’s first 12 years of life, we choose to focus on the cliché that “everyone deserves a second chance,” and this is hers!

Mom Mom was the first elderly dog we ever took in. She is low maintenance and never asks for anything. She is housebroken and just loves to hang out and watch the activity in the house. She is kind and gentle, just like a Mom Mom! We can’t possibly imagine our home without Mom Mom there watching over us all.

Mom Mom is a living example that miracles do happen. She’s proof that no matter how bad things get, if you open yourself up to love and compassion, it will eventually find you. –Amy Angelo

Big Puppy, Little Puppy

We had a fun day today, and the dogs are worn out. On a side note, Bill has been a bit frustrated that Hillary always has to sit closest to me on the couch. He usually defers, but tonight he wasn’t having it. He jumped up and sat right on her legs, so he could be next to me. Then, the cutest thing happened. Instead of pulling her legs out from under him, Hillary moved in closer. They’re snuggled up as close as can be right now, and I guess I’m part of “the snuggle” too. Life is good.

Sheltered From The Storm

This post is my entry into the BlogPaws Blog Carnival Contest sponsored by BISSELL Homecare, Inc. It is dedicated to the animals who suffered during Hurricane Irene. May they find their way home.

May in Colorado is especially stormy, with raindrops verging on hail, thunder rivaling the “Overture to William Tell,” and winds reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz (unanchored objects – and people – may be blown to Kansas). When I hear the pounding of inclement weather on my house, I feel sorry for the woodland creatures living in surrounding forests. I worry for the delicate birds with their exposed nests and even the sturdier deer, which may not have had time to find adequate shelter.

May of 2007 was no exception. The storms didn’t last long, but they occurred almost daily, and when the rain fell, it hammered the ground. There was only one difference during that particular month: our second-ever Boston terrier foster dog, Bill, had become a “woodland creature.” It was completely my fault. I didn’t properly shut our back gate, and the terrified puppy mill survivor took it as his opportunity to go from perpetual confinement to unbridled freedom, for which he was completely unprepared.

Kyla and Bill
Bill and me

I had only brought Bill home an hour earlier. His body seemed stuck to the bottom of his crate. This was understandable since at two years old, Bill’s entire life had been spent in a small chicken wire cage, and surely the few occasions he had been handled by humans were not pleasant ones. I couldn’t blame him for being too scared to move. Obviously, Bill’s running away was the furthest concern from my mind.

But run away he did, into the woods, where he hid… and hid. The rain pounded; the wind roared. We searched and searched. For weeks there were no signs of Bill. I worried; I cried. After two weeks, I tried to move on. Someone must have found him and taken him in. But then, would they have tossed him back out once they realized how emotionally damaged he was? He was more statue than pet, certainly not most people’s idea of a “dream dog.”

Then, on June 17th, three weeks from the day he disappeared, I got the call. Bill was alive! He was found by a person walking in the woods, who called animal control. They were then able to find MidAmerica Boston Terrier Rescue, the organization responsible for Bill, through his microchip. He was emaciated – down to 13 pounds from 20 – and had a deep gash on his leg requiring medical attention almost daily for a month. He was still unresponsive and practically glued to his bed, but at least he was home.

Bill, after the "rain"
Bill, after the "rain"

Home? Uh, yeah. I was finally experiencing the good kind of “foster failure”: the “I’m keeping my foster dog” kind of failure, as opposed to the “my foster dog died in the woods” kind of failure. You could say that Bill put the “bil” in rehabilitation for me: he was my mess, and I was determined to fix him.

For a while, Bill and my relationship reflected the storms through which he had lived. His unwillingness to even respond to his name flooded me with hopelessness. During the first three months, he wouldn’t leave his bed. I even had to carry him outside to eliminate. Walks were a drag; he would abruptly stop moving and flatten like a pancake at noises as innocuous as crickets chirping. My parents called him “Duck and Cover.”

My thoughts flew back and forth, oscillating between resolve to help Bill experience happiness and despair that psychological well-being possibly just wasn’t in the cards for him. But, as a former professional athlete, my competitive drive won out over my anguish, and I worked patiently to help Bill achieve small victories. Hiring a dog trainer made a tremendous difference. Bill began looking at me when I said his name. He slowly warmed up to walking on-leash and eventually graduated to hiking off-leash. After about eight months, he got out of the car by himself, and then came his first little, uncertain “Woof.” These were all life-enhancing victories!

Happy Bill

You might think that rehabilitating Bill was more of a hassle than it was worth, but you’d be wrong. The happiness I continue to experience from Bill’s small but significant victories is like a double rainbow after a storm: beautiful and full of hope. Now, when rain falls, I dry Bill’s fur. When thunder crashes, I cover Bill’s ears. When wind blows, I anchor Bill’s body. Bill knows how much I love him, and he reciprocates without hesitation. Together, we are both sheltered from any storm.

 

Boston Terrier Meets Video Camera

Hillary’s first experience with a video camera was just too cute not to share. Yes, I know there’s a typo. It adds character! (Actually, I deleted the raw files before I could fix it.)

 

*If you don’t get the Chinese pun, it’s just a reference to the fact that everything is made in China these days, and my video camera is probably no exception. No offense intended.