Help Me, Bloggers!

I know yesterday I said I hate unsolicited advice. Today, I am going to change things up a bit and beg for as much advice as you are able to give.

This lovely lady, is Tia. She is currently in foster care at the Pincher Creek Humane Society in Alberta. Unfortunately, Tia has been through a lot in her four short years. According to the description, she was brought to the shelter in need of an emergency C-section. They believe this was her fourth such surgery. Thankfully she is now spayed and ready to find a new home where she can re-start her life as a beloved pet and companion.

As we all know, Tia’s puppies will all be adopted instantly. They are probably spoken for already. Tia herself will probably take a lot longer to find the right home.

I know many of you have adopted and fostered dogs from similar situations – dogs from puppy mills, dogs who have never known a “normal” life. Every dog reacts to things differently, I know. Some dogs bounce back within months and other dogs may never fully recover. My question to you all is this: Do you have any advice for someone considering opening their lives to a dog like Tia?  

My practically mother-in-law has a lot of dog experience. She comments here often and is one of the few people in my offline life that actually knows about this space. She recently had to say good-bye to her lovely little Nicky. I wrote about him here. While I am excited she is ready to bring a new dog into her home, I also really respect her for wanting to make sure it is the absolute right decision for her and for the dog.

If you could all offer your kindest and most awesome support and advice, I would be forever grateful!

34 thoughts on “Help Me, Bloggers!

  1. so looks like a complete cutie! a lot of puppy farm escapees have some toilet training issues because they get used to wallowing in filth, and need a slow introduction to the outside world – but it really depends on the dog! I’d say go for it because it will be very rewarding when she comes out of her shell and finds her own personality.

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  2. She is beautiful….. I really can’t offer advice, but I agree with Jet… How she reacts to “normal” life depends on the dog, but I think with a lot of love, everything will be fine…

    PS…LOVE, LOVE the new look!

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  3. What a sweet face. Don’t you wonder about people who can look at a dog but only see dollar signs?

    My experience with rescues is that they’re very picky about potential adopters. If your m-i-l is seriously considering adopting Tia, I’d have her talk to the foster family. I bet they’d be really forthright about how Tia is doing in their home and what she’ll need to thrive in the future. And they’ll probably give your m-i-l the third degree about whether she’s the right person to adopt her.

    Most agencies make you complete an application before they’ll talk to you. So even if Tia isn’t a good fit, maybe the application will bring another doggie into your mom’s life.

    Look forward to seeing all the “solicited” advice here and hope you’ll keep us posted if you have any news about Tia.

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  4. In a way, it depends on your PMiL more than on the dog. Some people have the patience, fortitude, and skills to take on ANY dog. Others (like me) need a dog ready-to-go out of the box. How well do you know your PMiL? How old is she? How much energy does she have? How much time? How much dog-training experience? (Notice I didn’t say dog experience– if you’ve always had “perfect dogs,” even if you’ve had 10 you may not be able to deal with “issue dogs.”) And finally, does SHE want to rescue this baby? Even if she has no time, energy, or experience, if she has MONEY she can hire a trainer!

    I’ve done the foster-damaged-dogs thing. It’s not for sissies, and it’s not for people with limited time and resources. Of course, we don’t know how “damaged” this poor girl is. Let your PMiL go visit her and decide then. I hope Tia finds the perfect home, and you PMiL finds a dog she can love forever.

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  5. Delilah came to us from a high kill shelter; that is the only information we received; today she is outstanding; except for a couple of issues which we deal with.

    My advice is simple, there is a lot of patience and a lot of training required; of course the return is the love.

    If your PMiL is willing to put the effort into Tia, I bet she’ll have a great dog.

    Good luck and keep us posted!

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  6. Your almost MIL has the wealth of knowledge that is blogland at her disposal. I hope she won’t hesitate to use it.

    Congratulations on making the decision to love sweet Tia the way in which she deserves to become accustomed.

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  7. Anything is possible with love. She’s only four.. i am sure she’ll do great in a safe good environment.

    I got Dom at 4 years old too. He was supposed to be for my mom and dad.. but he ended up being my dog because he spends most of his time hanging with me. He has issues too with… raised hands.. and men. He learns to trust and actually a rescue dog is most well behaved. He listens and very very loyal.

    When you show them enough love, any rescue dog will thrive. I am sure of that.

    Do ask her to go see the dog first… and see if they have a connection.

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  8. Oh, my! Tia is just adorable! (Of course, I love the little scruffy ones!) 🙂

    I guess my advice here would be to just have your AMIL be truly committed from the get go – my guess is that since she knows you and knows Shiva, she is well aware of the potential challenges, as well as the huge rewards, that are part and parcel of opening one’s heart to a rescued dog.

    The challenges she may or may not face with Tia are probably going to be different than the ones you’ve faced with Shiva, but if she is committed to working through them, it’s a very rare dog that is so damaged that they can’t be rehabbed to a large degree.

    Please update us on Tia when you can – I sure hope all goes well for everyone involved.

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  9. My best advice is to go slow, acknowledge there will be setbacks and frustrations but to be persistent, determined and love the heck out of adorable Tia. Taking on an undersocialized dog is no small feat – but some dogs bounce back quickly while others take much longer. Talking extensively with the foster family is probably the best way to get a gauge on how Tia is doing – ask how she is doing with adjusting to life in a home, how fearful is she with the sounds and sights of normal home life? How is she doing with resource-guarding (ie food) and potty training? And what improvements have they seen since she’s been in their home?

    I wish your MIL the best of luck!

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  10. oh my goodness, that poor sweet dog 😦 kudos to your P-MIL for even considering this; I’m sure it’ll require a lot of work and a ton of love, but it’ll probably be really good for both of them.

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  11. My #1 advice is to talk to the foster family. They will be able to tell you (and your practically-MIL) what Tia is really like. Ask lots of questions (fosters like that!) and be honest about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of training you can offer. From there you can decide if Tia’s issues are ones that you’re comfortable taking on. Some dogs are real troopers and bounce back quickly while others need more time/work. Her “bio” says she’s a pretty quiet and affectionate dog which makes me think she’ll be just fine. I think 4 years is a great age so I wouldn’t have any hesitations about that. Good luck! I really hope it works out for Tia and your practically-MIL!

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  12. I’m not really sure how useful my advice would be – I have no experience with owning a dog with issues, only with walking or taking care of one. The thing I would suggest, though, for someone adopting that cutie is this: don’t feel sorry for her, and make the house boundaries and rules clear right from the beginning. If she sees you as fully in charge and confident (and also fully loving, but not pitying) right from the get-go, she’ll have the confidence she needs with all these new experiences. Dogs don’t wallow in the past, but she’ll know if you’re wallowing in thoughts about ‘the poor thing’, and react to it.
    wow… reading that, I seem like an awful person – I don’t mean that you should expect perfection right from the start, but if you start her off with one set of rules, and then switch it, she’ll only be setup for failure. After all – if she’s allowed on the couch for the first little while, because she’s such a sad, poor doggy, then it isn’t fair to get angry that she’s on the couch once she’s been there for a few weeks.
    A good way to do potty training (when you’re at home), is to keep her on-leash and the leash attached to you – no sneaking off to go have an accident, that way, or get into any other trouble.
    Good luck to your MIL with her search for puppy, whether its this one, or another 🙂

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  13. Taking on any animal is a big commitment. Your mil has experience with dogs, so I’d say go for it. I am sure given time and plenty of tlc Tia will settle in just fine.

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  14. I got my older dog from the RSPCA (main British shelter), but she came from a pretty standard background, rather than a puppy mill situation.

    From secondhand knowledge though, I’d just advise your practical MiL to take everything very slow, and let Tia make all the moves for the first week or so; to make sure the environment is calm and totally undemanding; and to take any socialisation that’s further needed slowly, gently and carefully.

    Tia’s a gorgeous little dog, and she deserves the best.

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  15. Ah Tia looks so sweet, it makes me sad she’s so far not had a happy life……I can’t offer any advice, but Mum and I are hoping she finds a wonderful forever home, even if it doesn’t end up being your M-I-L

    Hope you have a great day & puppy hugs for Tia,

    Snoopy 🙂

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  16. I don’t have any experience with this, but when we adopted Kayloo I wrote out a long list detailing our lifestyle for the adoption coordinator. I think adoption coordinators can be really great about assessing whether the animal and potential adopter will be a good match.

    I would think that Fearfuldogs.com could be a really good source of info too, depending on Tia’s needs: http://fearfuldogs.com/

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  17. I can see you already got a lot of excellent advice in the comments. I would only like to add that adoption in all cases is a leap of faith. If your practically-mother-in-law is ready for that and prepared and willing to tackle any situation that might arise … what are you waiting for! 🙂

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  18. Thank you all for your advise. I have called the SPCA and left a message to see if Tia is still available and if so – when I could set up an appointment to meet her and speak with the foster family. Once I know what is happening – I will let Kristine know so she can update you all one way or another depending on what is happening. It has taken me awhile to get to a point where I would like another dog after losing Nicki – and if Tia does not work out – I will keep my eyes open for another rescue dog that needs a good home. Thanks again

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  19. Ditto – everything Pamela said. Her foster family will even in a short time be able to give a pretty idea of how she is adjusting so far. Felix was a rescue from an abusive situation. The best thing that he taught me was to trust him enough to know when he is ready for more – for more socialization, mores stimulation, more training, more everything. After years of neglect, he seemed to find my constant love and affection a little much – me always wanting to go for walks and play and snuggle. I had to let him step back and come out of his shell in his own time and to really try not to overwhelm him with too many obedience and behavior rules all at once. I might be surprised by how long that takes. Felix has been with us four years, as of February and that entire time has been an evolution for him. If you took snapshots of him the first day, 6 months later, at a year, two and three – not only would those dogs have looked physically completely different as he got healthier – but emotionally, those were all very different dogs as well. We kind of feel like we are just now getting to know the “real Felix”. Whatever happens, I hope this sweetie finds a great, loving patient home who will give her the time to figure out who she is and how to live in the real world.

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  20. Sarah, Pamela and Kate all offered great advice. I think your MIL should speak with the foster family to understand what Tia’s needs and special issues (usually fears if unsocialized) are and then determine if she wants to make the commitment. The truth is that rehabbing and owning a dog like Tia is not for everyone (as “one person” mentioned above). It takes a lot of patience and time, and usually includes 2 steps forward and 1 step back. But the little victories are oh so sweet!

    If your MIL decides to take Tia, I am sure the foster family will provide her with lots of info and suggestions. They may have already helped Tia to start to trust people, but if not I have a few suggestions. Among them are: 1) Have a crate available for her in a quiet (low-traffic) area of the house where she can go if she is scared, 2) Let her get used to her environment for about a week before introducing new people, dogs, environments, etc. , 3) Keep high-value treats handy to toss to Tia when she does start to explore on her own, 4) If Tia does hide in her kennel and is too afraid to come out try just sitting in the room quietly so she an get used to your presence.

    I also suggest checking out FearfulDogs.com. Debbie has been a great resource to people like me who own unsocialized and fearful dogs. She is extremely helpful and knowledgeable. She also has some great videos on her website and blog.

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  21. When we adopted Mayzie, I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into. Once I realized the extent of Mayzie’s fearfulness, I went into full research mode. I discovered the Fearful Dogs website mentioned above and joined the Shy K9’s list that she has on her site. I bought, “Help for Your Fearful Dog” and numerous other books. But basically what it all boils down to is this:

    1. If they’re fearful of people (luckily, Mayzie wasn’t), remove all social pressure initially. Don’t look at them, try to pet them, etc. (It seems like this is THE number 1 hardest thing in the world for people to do.)
    2. Leak treats. Every time you’re around the dog, make sure great things fall from the sky. Eventually your presence becomes a predictor of awesomeness.
    3. Once they become more comfortable with you, start doing things that build up their confidence. Simple obedience is great for this.
    4. Realize that a dog’s progress will be on their own timeline. Not yours.
    5. Don’t take it personally if the dog is afraid of you or the ceiling fan or whatever. And try not to get too upset about set-backs. This journey takes the scenic route. It’s not a straight line.
    6. Flooding is bad. Really bad.
    7. Patience, patience, and more patience.

    Sometimes when I think back on it, I wonder if I would’ve adopted Mayzie if I’d known how hard it would be at first. But I am SO incredibly glad that I didn’t know. Watching her progress and evolve into the dog that I know she can be has been probably one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced. The road is long and can be frustrating. But ultimately, the rewards are far greater than the frustrations.

    MayzieMom

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  22. YESH for Tia and your PML. I agree with most of the commentators – whenever I bring in a new rescue dog, particularly one whose background I know was way less than stellar, I back off. I feed them, keep them safe, make myself available but first of all, let them be a DOG. They most often join the pack which helps with house training (sort of – the pack is made up of mostly wimpy hounds who do not like inclement weather – sigh) and socialization. I carefully watch, though, for any bullying due to the newbie’s status. This is not an issue for your PML, though. After a month or so, I begin to formally train: sit, wait, etc. I take them to Petco and out in the community away from the pack and home, but I don’t expect much more than I see. I still do not DEMAND at this point – I want to see their reactions. Some do better than others; some really surprise me with their timidity (Lady Bug) and reactions (See Sally growled at the Greyhounds; a rescue friend pointed out since the Greyts were sight-hounds, their staring may have been intimidating to Sally, a scent hound mix puppy; I didn’t think of that). Wonderful, wonderful and now, time to get ready for work. Keep us informed :). You ROCK.

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  23. Hugs to your PMIL for considering this sweet girl. You are absolutely right that she will take a long while to be adopted, not only because of her age but because of the personality issues and health issues she is bound to have being a puppy mill mom. I mentioned on Twitter that patience is key – let her warm up to you instead of immediately giving her tons of hands-on attention. Your PMIL sounds like a smart lady, though, so I’m sure she’ll make the right decision. Definitely keep us updated!0000000000000000000

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  24. I would definitely check out the health concerns this breed is prone to. As a victim of a puppy mill, any inherit conditions may be even more prominant. Make sure you are prepared for the emotional and financial toll of these conditions. I wish your mother-in-law all the luck in the world and I wish this little girl peace and happiness.

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  25. The closest experiences I have to adopting a dog like Mia are Hawk and Lilac. Hawk was a fearful dog, and his neuroses knew no bounds. One summer he was afraid of fan cords on the floor (after being fine with them the summer before) and no sooner did we get over that fear then he developed a fear of something else. Patience and being calm paid off huge dividends with him.

    Lilac was seven when we got her and had been a brood mama to two litters of puppies. She hadn’t been mistreated, but she had lived on a farm. Housetraining hadn’t been necessary because she always had access to outside with the puppies. It was harder to housebreak her than any of the other fosters we had, but she did learn it. We just had to remember to start the way we would with a puppy instead of with a track dog. Every hour we took her out for a couple of days and she got it. She has absolutely been the sweetest dog ever!

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  26. Mayzie’s Mom – You described it better than I ever could. Great advice (better than mine for sure!).

    Like you, I wondered at one time why I had decided to foster, and then adopt, Daisy. And, like you, I have found the experience to be “one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced.” Knowing what I know now makes it all worth it. Who could have guessed a dog that cowered in a corner would one day jump up on my bed and insist on a belly rub every morning? 🙂

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  27. You ave gotten some great advice!!

    Puppy mill dogs can range so much from “so terrified I empty my anal glands when humans approach” to “well, give me a minute and I’ll be ok”.

    I like this:
    “5. Don’t take it personally if the dog is afraid of you or the ceiling fan or whatever.”

    Bella hit the deck one day out of the blue at the ceiling fan. She had been fine with it before and one day it was too much. Now she’s fine with it again.

    Puppy Mill dogs are an adventure-the question should be Is your MIL ready to ride that ride till the end, no matter what?

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  28. It says in the description that Tia is living in foster care, so I would suggest your PMIL ask to arrange a meet-and-greet/dog walk with Tia and the foster family. Depending on how long they’ve had her, they could be a really good resource and have excellent insights into her personality and disposition. Some time with the dog will help give her an idea if they’d be a good match, but the foster family who has cared for Tia will be able to answer questions about what she’s like at home, on a regular walk, etc. If she’s worried about her heart taking over and adopting the dog regardless of suitability, maybe a phone interview to start would be a good screening method. As long as it’s an informed decision, you can hardly go wrong.

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  29. I think it’s so nice of you to be publicising this little lady’s sad story, and it’s wonderful of your mother-in-law to be considering her for adoption. It’s hard to give advice without actually meeting the dog. But, in my view, if you (a hypothetical ‘you’, that is, it could be anyone) decide to adopt a dog who’s been abused so much, the only way to do it is with open eyes, an open mind and an open heart. You should expect some problems, be ready to deal with them and hope that, at the end of it, you’ll get rewarded with a happy and loving dog.

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  30. Ive worked with rescue dogs for almost 10 years, and my soul mate a 6 year old border collie mix,came from a hoarding situation that had 150 dogs. All dogs react to this type of thing differently. Windy was fearful of everything, and was likely never lived anywhere except the middle of Nevada surrounded by other dogs. The biggest obstacle with her was keeping her safe. Dogs that are fearful and not used to living in the house, with people, etc can try to escape, and once they do getting them back can be next to impossible. Windy came to me as a foster dog and after getting loose and being lost for 4 WEEKS in a field in the area, once I had her back I was never going to let her go.
    It took windy 6 months to take a treat from my hand. its important to understand its not you, and Its going to take a long time to get some good memories in their head to go along with the bad or non existant ones.
    Once they are comfortable with you they want you to be in charge. The biggest improvements in Windy have come from walking regularly- she is happy to have someone else take charge and lead her on the leash. She was the low dog in the pack and she is great full someone is protecting her. Windy started agility about a year ago (after 3 years) and she has become a different dog. She loves to talk (bark) loves to go to the park, and will gladly go up to people to be pet now.
    Just take everything one day at a time and remember that most dogs respond, and are thrilled to have you be their person.

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