Paisley has been with us for week now. And not much has changed. Since she’d been whining in the dog area when left alone, Monday afternoon I decided to bring her upstairs to the kitchen so she could be with the other dogs and get some exposure to us. Unfortunately, Paisley was frightened while I carried her upstairs. And whenever anyone came into the kitchen, she ran around looking for a new place to hide. That evening, she was frightened yet again when I took her back downstairs. The next morning when I came down to feed her and open up the door, she tried to run from me. Later, when I came down again, she ran outside and hid behind the bushes. So bringing her upstairs seems to have had the opposite effect than I’d hoped for. So instead, I’ve been going down with the computer or a book and sitting in the whelping box and feeding her hot dog bites. At first she was just hoarding the hot dog pieces, perhaps too scared to eat in front of me. But yesterday when I dropped one right under her nose, her interest in the hot dog won out over her fear. Today, she’s been slowly giving in again and eating them. So that’s our big progress for the week.
Here she is in that small spot between the dog fence and the whelping box:
One other positive note, when she’s lying down comfortably, she doesn’t turn away when I reach out to pet her. Instead she closes her eyes and looks content as I stroke her back. So perhaps Paisley’s caretaker did occasionally pet her.
A couple of times, I’ve brought Little Dog with me:
She hasn’t been happy in the dog area, even with hot dog bites. I wonder if she can sense Paisley’s anxiety and finds it upsetting.
With progress this slow, I can’t help but wonder if I’m doing the right thing. Or if she’d be better off with someone else. I suppose I’ll just have to learn to live with my uncertainty.
One reason I love fostering puppies is they are easy to place. In the DC area, the vast majority of pet owners spay and neuter their pets. As a result, local shelters don’t get many puppies. When they do, often a half dozen or more families must fight over the same puppy. It’s very different for shelters in areas with low spay and neuter rates. Shelters in communities where people can easily get a puppy from the neighbor down the street have far more puppies than they can handle. Along with all the adult dogs they’re responsible for, they can’t possibly care for all the pregnant dogs and puppies that show up every week. So Homeward Trails and other private rescues fill a great need by rescuing these puppies and pregnant or mother dogs. Nearly all the puppies I foster find adopters by their 8th week or soon after. And if the mother is friendly and outgoing, she usually has an adopter by then too.
But dogs like Holly, who are fearful of strangers or have other health or behavioral issues, often take longer to find homes. Not everyone is in the position to own a dog that is a work in progress. Not everyone has the patience or the faith and imagination to believe that a timid, shy dog like Holly will one day be their beloved pet.
So sometimes we foster a mom dog for a few more weeks, months even before a good home can be found. Often though, Homeward Trails learns of another mom dog in need whom I’m asked to foster, such as Paisley who joined us last Friday. Which usually means finding a new foster for the previous dog. It’s hard saying goodbye to a mother dog we’ve nurtured, who’s blossomed in our care. Hard earned trust and affection is such a gift; it’s difficult to give up such a gift. It’s especially hard when instead of seeing her leave with a person/family who is offering a permanent home, she goes instead to another foster where once again she’ll put her trust in someone temporary.
Holly has become part of our family the last two weeks. Once we realized she wouldn’t have an accident, we opened the kitchen gates and let her roam the house. Grabbing a toy to chew on, she’d settle down on the floor next to me. Or sometimes she’d find Wendy and try to engage her in play. Out in our backyard, she loved roaming with Little Dog or racing around shaking her toys. When I going out, we felt comfortable leaving Holly and Little Dog gated in the kitchen. No worries they’d fight or Holly’d cause mischief. Best of all, at night she slept soundly on a dog bed on the floor of the bedroom allowing us a good night’s sleep (that is until she started keeping Paisley company in the dog area). In short, now that she trusts us and feels comfortable in our home she’s become a pleasure.
Over the weekend my adoption coordinator Miranda suggested Holly be spayed this Thursday and stay at the center in Virginia so she could attend Homeward Trails big Clear the Shelters event on Saturday. Miranda sent out a request for a transport and Cee, one of our volunteers, generously offered to pick her up Wednesday afternoon. When Cee arrived, I put a leash on Holly and led her outside. At first Holly went willingly but once she saw Cee standing by her car, she panicked and pulled away. Thankfully with Holly wearing the harness, I was able to I pull her to the car and lifted her in, first by her front legs and then her back ones. I quickly closed the car door as she turned around. She looked at me, surprised, concerned. I felt awful sending her off without me. Even though what was happening was in her best interest, it felt like a betrayal of her affection and trust. From the driver’s seat, Cee reached back and spoke gently to Holly. That made me feel better but only a tiny bit.
Today is very quiet without her exuberant presence. My cup of coffee this morning in the backyard did not taste as good without her running around, tail high, excited to be out again. Instead of trotting around, Little Dog and Wendy, just sat there, as if the fun of being outside had gone with Holly.
My daughter Amanda is almost three years older than her sister Rachel. All through my second pregnancy, Amanda was still my baby, needing help getting dressed, settled down for bed at night, etc. But I’ll never forget my impression on seeing Amanda for the first time after Rachel was born. She was so big! Had she grown overnight? And so capable! She could talk, walk, even play by herself for short periods of time. Why had I thought of her as a baby? I’m experiencing something similar with Holly. Now that super shy and anxious Paisley is here, Holly seems so well adjusted and easy to care for. She comes when we call her – Holly Holly! – goes in and out the back door without needing us to lead her and hasn’t had a single accident upstairs.
Holly adjusted so well to the new routine it seemed like a good time to tackle something else new: walking on a leash in our neighborhood. So Saturday morning, despite the heat and humidity, she and I joined Steve, Wendy and Little Dog on their walk. Each day, Steve takes the dogs on a 1.6 mile loop down the street into our neighborhood, through a walking path in the woods behind the elementary school, across an open field and road to a park and playground and finally across the road home to our court. To ensure Holly was secure on the walk, I put a halter to her; it would be much harder for her to slip out of a halter than a regular collar. Nervous, she tried to get away as I adjusted it to fit. And when I tried to lead her out the kitchen door and into the garage, she pulled away. But Wendy and Little Dog were ahead of her and with a tug on her halter she followed them outside. Our court is generally pretty quiet. But on Saturday mornings, the main street running through our neighborhood is pretty busy with vehicles passing by frequently. As we began the walk, Holly didn’t seem to understand that she was on a leash and would take off running, yanking my arm, the leash pulling her back. And whenever a car or truck came up behind us, she’d turn to look at the noise and try to bolt away. But I held on tight to her leash and continued following Steve, Wendy and Little. The walk improved through the woods, where there were no cars to frighten Holly anymore. But she still seemed anxious, perhaps wondering where we were going and why. Near the end of the woods we encountered a couple walking toward us. Holly barked and I pulled her off the path and held on to her so they could pass. As we neared the park, I saw it was filled with people, adults playing tennis and children running around the playground yelling and shouting. Since Steve takes this route nearly everyday, some of the children and their parents have gotten to know Wendy and Little Dog and like greeting and petting them. Steve and our dogs were ahead of Holly and me. As they passed next to the playground, a little girl came running up to the playground fence. As the girl’s mother called out to Steve, Holly tensed up and tried to run in the opposite direction. I tried to lead her back around the other way but then she noticed the tennis players and guys on the basketball court and spun around again. So we headed back toward the playground, walking as far from the children as possible. Which wasn’t very far – there’s a fence running the length of the park no more than ten feet back from the playground. Holly braved it out, maybe seeing Wendy and Little ahead of her helped. After that we just had to go across a quiet grassy field and cross the street to our court and house. When I tried to bring her in through the garage Holly shied away, she must not have recognized where we were. So Steve went inside and let us in through the front door. At first she didn’t want to go in that way either but once she’d crossed the threshold she bolted in. We were both exhausted from the long walk on a hot humid day and from struggling with each other. She panted, I sweated, and we both drank lots of water. The afternoon was peaceful; our normally rambunctious Holly napped on the floor. I may have napped too.
Sunday morning we took another walk. Holly was much calmer and when cars went by she didn’t react as strongly. Tonight went even better: her tail was up through most of the walk. The only hitch was when we got to the elementary school and found a team of girls practicing soccer right by the path to the woods. Just as Holly and I were passing them – I’d taken her up the side of a hill to get as far away as possible – the girls ran toward us screaming and chasing an errant ball. Holly pulled away but didn’t bark and we followed Steve, Wendy and Little on toward the peaceful woods.
With three dogs to control and just the two of us we have no pictures or video from these adventures. But I found some videos on the camera from the last day Sansa was with us:
Friday night before going to bed I tried to take Paisley outside for a bathroom break. I gently tugged on the leash while speaking sweetly to her, but she wouldn’t move. No surprise, I imagine she’s never worn a collar let alone walked on a leash. So I bent down and carefully picked her up. Paisley tried to pull away from me but once I had her in my arms she stopped struggling and froze. As I carried her to the back doors, Paisley was so frightened she began dropping pieces of poop. I set her on the lawn and held on to the leash. She immediately tried to get away from me. When the leash held her back, she ran in a new direction and was yanked again. At that point it was clear she was not going to calm down enough to pee. So I gently picked her up again and headed downstairs to the dog area. I placed her in the whelping box and she quickly scooted into one of the back corners. I put a soft blanket near her, then filled bowls with water and dog food and put them in the whelping box too. After laying down newspaper near the gate and the outside door, I quietly said goodnight to Paisley, turned out the light and left her there alone. Poor sweet baby.
Dogs like Paisley who’ve been neglected by caregivers – in this case an animal hoarder – are so heartbreaking. Dogs evolved to become close companions of humans, to crave people’s attention and companionship, to enjoy being petted, played with and praised. Their very existence depended on being friendly to humans and meeting their demands. But a dog who grows up with little or no human contact is frequently frightened by normal human-dog interactions. Like Paisley they may panic when being picked up or even touched.
In addition to not being socialized to humans, Paisley has another heartbreaking problem: being without her sister Pebbles.
Pebbles and Paisley appear to be pair-bonded. If not for their impending litters of puppies, these sisters would never have been separated. So Paisley is experiencing two things which make fostering her challenging: extreme loneliness from being separated from her sister and an extreme fear of humans. On the one hand, it would ease Paisley’s loneliness to be upstairs in the company of Holly and all our pets. But putting her in our kitchen – where Steve, Amanda and I often are – would be very stressful for her and might delay her progress. So at least until she’s not so fearful of me it’s probably in Paisley’s best interest to stay in the dog area.
Saturday morning, after taking care of Holly’s needs (she slept beautifully in our bedroom!) I went down to check on Paisley. She was still in the back corner of the whelping box. None of the food or water had been drunken and the newspapers were still dry. A strong indication that Paisley was feeling quite traumatized by Friday’s transport from Fayette, W. VA. to Falls Church, VA,
her stopover at Dog Paws and Cat Claws, her drive to Gaithersburg, MD and finally her ordeals with me (for more on this subject, read Getting our newest Mama Dog settled in). So I got a hot dog out of the refrigerator and cut it into small bites for her. Actually I got out two hot dogs. Wendy, Little Dog and Holly were eyeing me so I split another three ways for them. Back downstairs I offered a bite to Paisley, putting it down in front of her, but she wouldn’t eat it with me there (another sign that she’s very frightened). So I made a trail of hot dog bites over to her food bowl and dropped the last few pieces inside.
A few hours later, Steve and I heard some whining coming from the dog area. I picked up Holly’s leash and brought her down with me to check on Paisley. The hot dog bites were all gone along with most of the dog food. And the newspapers by the door were drenched in pee (yay Paisley!). Holly jumped into the whelping box, sniffed Paisley then walked around the dog area sniffing some more (is she still wondering where her puppies are?). Finally Holly slipped into the small area between the dog gate and the whelping box – her favorite sleeping place – but her pillows and blankets were gone (remember all that washing I did Friday?). I put down a fresh blanket, removed the food bowl to prevent any arguments over it and shut the gate on Holly and Paisley. Normally I would hesitate leaving two dogs who’d spent so little time together alone. But Paisley showed no signs of fear or aggression when any of our dogs had approached her Friday and Holly has never acted fearful of or aggressive with other dogs. Maybe Holly would ease Paisley’s loneliness. An hour or so later, I went to check on them and Paisley was in the whelping box and Holly in her old sleeping place. When I opened the door to leave, Holly was ready to go too. The next time I heard some whining and checked on her, Paisley had moved to Holly’s sleeping spot. At bed time Saturday night, I put Holly in with Paisley. I didn’t hear a sound from either of them all night.
Today was much like yesterday. I used hot dog bites to entice Paisley to eat. And whenever I hear whining coming from downstairs I’d bring Holly down for a visit.
Several times I’ve found them both lying together in Holly’s sleeping spot. Along with all the dog tending, I’ve also been reading articles online on how to help overly shy or traumatized dogs.
This afternoon, Steve and Wendy went to Petsmart for dog food and bought a special treat:
So now whenever I go in to check on Paisley, I break a strip into pieces to give to her. I hope she’ll begin to associate me with tasty treats. I’ve also been leaving the outside door cracked open now and then so Paisley can go outside. And since the newspapers have remained unsoiled I assume she’s done so.
So we’ll continue to take it slow and be patient with Paisley. To let her heal and grow at her own pace.
It took most of the afternoon to scrub down the whelping box, the floors and walls of the dog area, treat everything with a 10% ammonia solution (recommended for coccidia) and wash all the towels, rugs and bedding. While I was busy inside, Steve used a hose attachment to spray the side yard with ammonia. After dinner, I checked email and found a note from Erin telling me a volunteer named Julianne had offered to drive one of the pregnant dogs up after work (yay Julianne!). Around 8:30pm, Julianne rang the door bell, sending all three dogs into fits of barking. Julianne carried the crate with Paisley inside and into our kitchen. I’d hoped to have Julianne take the crate back with her but Paisley didn’t want to come out and I didn’t want to force her. When I returned from walking Julianne out, Paisley had left the crate and was hiding in a corner. As I talked quietly and knelt down beside her to pet her, she turned her head away and tried to get deeper into the corner. She wasn’t wearing a collar so I found a spare one for her. She froze and kept her face turned away as I put it on her. While handling her, I felt scabs all over her skin and trapped in her fur. Not the time to try to groom her though. After I was done adjusting the collar and adding the leash, Paisley tried to hide in the cabinet toe kick:
Ever since Paisley arrived, Holly had been following her around and watched as I attached the collar and leash:
But as soon as I left the kitchen, Holly whined to be let out too. She’s now settled on a cushion next to the couch:
A few minutes ago I slipped into the kitchen and found Paisley lying on the dog beds. This time she didn’t look away:
No foster yet for Holly so tonight she gets to sleep in our room with Little Dog (Wendy sleeps with Amanda). I had planned to put Paisley in the dog area tonight but perhaps I’ll just let her stay where she is. The poor girl has been moved around enough today already.
Yesterday I got the following email from my Adoption Coordinator Miranda:
We have two adorable pregnant dogs that are coming up tomorrow and I’m wondering if you’d be open to fostering them if I’m able to move Holly?
They’re supposedly about half way through term.
Pictures are attached – let me know!
They look like sisters, don’t they? So cute and very sad and shy.
Soon after Erin, another Adoption Coordinator, posted the following note to our list serve with the same two pictures:
We are hoping to save these 2 pregnant dogs from Fayette tomorrow but they will need a foster home to go to! They were rescued from a hoarding situation and are a little on the shy side but are already starting to warm up at the shelter. They are only about halfway through their pregnancies and therefore won’t be having their pups for probably another month or so. They just need a comfortable home to relax in and a quiet comfortable room where they can give birth when the time comes.
We are here to support you throughout the fostering period, but it’s fairly easy as the mom does almost all the work when giving birth and also for the first few weeks of the pups lives.
Please let me know if you could help us save either of these soon to be moms!
Poor sweet babies. I so want to help them. But saying yes means moving Holly to a new foster home. Just as she’s settling in with us. I reminded myself that we’ve done this many times before. As hard as it’s been saying goodbye, each dog has ended up in a wonderful foster home and eventually been adopted. But not many Homeward Trail volunteers are in a position to take in a pregnant dog. So I emailed Miranda and said yes. Later on I re-read Miranda’s note and wondered if she might be asking me to take both dogs. Since they appear to be sisters, it’s possible they are bonded and would be happier together. I emailed Miranda again and said if necessary I could take them both, at least for now. Thankfully by this morning Erin found another foster willing to take one of the dogs. The dogs arrive this afternoon and Erin is looking for someone to drive one up to me. This is a relief as I will be busy this afternoon thoroughly cleaning the dog area and the side yard before the new dog arrives.
Meanwhile Miranda is busy looking for a new foster for Holly. All fingers crossed that someone wonderful volunteers soon.
I’m always thrilled to receive news or pictures of a former foster. It makes me so happy to see that they are happy, thriving and beloved. Adopters are so wonderful to take the time to text or email updates; I’m very grateful for their thoughtfulness and their kind and generous words.
Especially in this case when the puppies they’ve adopted have parasites. Remember when Holly had severe diarrhea and after a fecal exam the vet diagnosed her with coccidia and hookworms? A few days after taking him home, Tyrion’s adopters emailed to tell me that his fecal showed he had coccidia and hookworms too. So even though Holly was treated with Albon – which was transmitted to the puppies through her milk – for the coccidia and she and the puppies were given de-worming meds for the hookworms, and though no one had symptoms, Tyrion still had these two parasites. And that meant it was probable that Holly and the other puppies did as well. I let the other adopters know and took a fecal to Dr. Bonner at Diamond Veterinary Hospital. Sure enough, Holly and Sansa had coccidia and hookworms. Dr. Bonner’s assistant Veronica told me that both these parasites can be hard to treat and often stay alive in the ground for months. So even if the meds had worked it’s possible that Holly and the puppies were reinfected from the yard.
I sent Sansa’s adopters home with medicine to treat her and one by one I heard from the others that their puppies too had coccidia and hookworms. Thankfully everyone seems to be doing well despite these nasty invaders. And here are puppy pictures to prove it:
Ranger (formerly Tyrion):
Stella (formerly Brienne):
Willow (formerly Dani):
Penny (formerly Arya):
Abby (formerly Sansa)
Aren’t they all adorable? And best of all, it’s obvious they are cherished. If only I could share these pictures with Holly.
P.S. I weighed Abby last Friday and she was 14 lbs. And Willow’s new mommy told me today that she’s up to 16 lbs already.