Archive for the ‘Behavior’ Category

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Puppy Mill Shelties

July 20, 2012

All women are born Kelly And Her Sheltiesequal, then some accessorize.  Kelly Twilley accessorizes.  She makes jewelry and sells it at Trade Day in Collinsville, Alabama.  Her profile picture shows her with a beaded necklace, earrings, and two Shetland Sheepdogs.  Kelly knows how to accessorize.  But when I got to know her, I quickly learned that her dogs were not an accessory.  Her dogs were rescued from a puppy mill.

In February of 2008 Kelly heard that her local SPCA had a male Sheltie that was in pretty rough shape.  Kelly wanted a female but went to see him anyway.  When she got there she learned that the Sheltie was rescued from a puppy mill along with 130 other dogs.  It took her ten minutes to catch him, but when she did, it took only a few seconds for him to fall asleep in her arms.  Kelly took him home and named him Bailey.

About two years later, I set up an agility field in Dogtown, AL and started giving lessons.  Kelly brought her Border Collie, Emma.  After class I was talking to the group about the work I was doing teaching agility to reactive and fearful dogs.  Agility gave the owners’ and their dogs the confidence to go for walks and socialize. Kelly told me Bailey’s story and how he was still of fearful new people and situations.  I said, “let’s give it a try”.

The following week Kelly and Bailey had a private lesson.  He was afraid of everything.  Just walking through the gate to get onto the field was a challenge.  Bailey quickly found a safe spot in the tunnel. Each time he got scared, he would go in and not come out.

Bailey’s most difficult obstacle was the dog walk.  We started slowly by putting him on the contact zone of the descending plank and let him run down.  Each week we moved him further back, closer to the top of the ascending plank.

When he did not progress as quickly as Emma, I reminded Kelly that the work we were doing was not about agility, it was about building confidence.  Once Bailey gained confidence on the agility field he would be more confident in other situations.  Then one week he surprised Kelly by jumping into the car to come to agility class.  Soon Bailey was running all the way through the tunnel and over the dog walk.  Then he started greeting people and letting friends and family pet him and hold him.

Kelly’s self-esteem grew, she was ready to rescue another puppy mill Sheltie.  Kelly searched PetFinder and found a 5-year-old female in a Sheltie rescue just three hours from home.  After a four long weeks of filling out applications, phone interviews and waiting, Molly was hers.  Kelly said, “I had no idea what bad shape a dog can be in until I met Molly”.  She set up a kennel in the front yard under a shade tree for her.  Molly spent her first weeks there; she escaped 3 times.  Kelly started her in agility.

As soon as Kelly put Molly down on the agility field she ran away. Before we could teacher her anything, Molly needed to feel safe, she didn’t trust anyone yet so we taught her to come to a spot, the table.  Kelly put food on the table and we waited.  Molly came and went.  Kelly put more food on the table and we waited.  Molly came and went.  After each repetition the time between recalls got shorter and Kelly’s patience grew longer.

When Kelly got home, she put a dog bed just outside the patio door.  Then she used the same technique and taught Molly to come to that spot.  Soon Kelly felt safe enough to let Molly out of her kennel.  Molly now spends most of her time in her spot by the door watching for squirrels to chase away.

Bailey and Molly will never compete at an agility trial.  Their trial happens everyday.  They struggle to conquer their fears and to love and trust people.  Although Kelly admits she had no idea what she was getting into when she adopted a puppy mill rescue, she says she is more confident and more patient than she ever was before.  She is now designing jewelry based on the collar Molly was wearing when she got her.

If you want to see her jewelry and more pictures of Kelly and her dogs visit her website at

http://www.emma-doras.com.

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Searching

September 27, 2011

I talk a lot, but I don’t say much.  I am actually pretty shy.  Keeping secrets is a shortcoming.  Not secrets about you, secrets about myself.  Many people, even those closest to me, do not know very much about me.  They are often surprised to find out even seemingly ordinary things about me.  But there are people, those I know and those I have never met personally, who tell me my secrets.  These short stories are about some of those people.

“Honey, what are you going to do about your marriage?”

“My marriage?”

“I could see you’re not happy.  You’re too young to be unhappy.”

Was it that obvious?  He was quiet.  He didn’t talk very much during our visit up east, to me or anyone else.

“I am not making any decisions right now.”

“Maybe you should get some counseling.”

She only stands shoulder high, but her presence is undeniable.  When she smiles her teeth mash together as she crinkles her nose.  It was impossible to avoid eye contact when she talks.  She is my aunt.

Memphis had a tough start to life.  He was aggressive, and I could not control him.  I came very close to putting him to rest.  When he was only a few months old, he would go from sleeping peacefully in my lap to violently attaching the other dogs, Boston in particular.

To manage his behavior and to keep the other dogs safe, I strategically placed baby gates, crates and air horns throughout the house.  At the time, trying to manage the situation was all I could do, while I uncovered the cause of the behavior and to modify it.  I used special collars and leashes, changed his food, gave him supplements and adhered to strict rules and routines.  I would not let any of the other dogs stare at him; they learned to look away and not make eye contact.  Things improved, but there were still fights.

When Memphis would get into a fight, my first concern was always safety.  I didn’t want anyone to get hurt.  My second concern was all of the dogs’ emotional states.  I worried that Memphis was insane and that it was affecting the other dogs.  They all learned to be cautious around him, but were they scared and unhappy too?

My mother liked to play bingo.  This was the only time she ever went to church.  Every Tuesday, she would ask one of us in the house to go with her.  The answer was always no, but she went anyway.   Bingo was for old people, it couldn’t be much fun. One week she couldn’t drive, I don’t remember why; but I agreed to take her.  I was nervous, not knowing what to expect.  When we arrived at the church, we stood in line, waiting for the doors to open.  It was important to get there early, so she could get her “usual seat.”  The desk in the hall had piles of bingo cards on it.  People bought a hundred of them.  My mother got her cards, and I began to sweat.  “I’m with her,” I said.  “I’m just going to watch.”

I followed my mother down the long hall into a huge room full of tables and chairs.  We sat down in her usual spot.  She spread out some of her cards.  They were made of newsprint, so she took some tape out of her bag and taped them to the table.  In her bag was also two plastic bottles of ink, a bright red wand with a magnet in it, lots of red translucent markers, and cash.  She took one of the bottles of ink and dabbed the free, center square of the nine cards in front of her, then placed the bottle down.  She was ready.

Memphis had not gotten into a fight in almost four months.  Then one night, Memphis and I were sleeping and I rolled over onto him and woke him.  He instantly stood up on the bed, looked me straight in the eyes and froze.  I was sure he was going to kill me, so I was quietly making a plan to defend myself.  Then, just as suddenly as he’d stood, he looked away, shook, jumped down off the bed, circled a few times, then got back on the bed, laid down and went back to sleep.  He shook it off and was now sleeping! I could not close my eyes.  This was the moment when I knew he was better, this was the moment I saw him look away.

“N32 . . . B14 . . . G50.” The man calling the numbers was on a stage with a round basket next to him, and a large sign with numbers and letters above him.  The sign would light up each time he spoke.  “B1!”  Everyone in the room swiped their bottles down the B column and dabbed the corresponding square on their bingo cards.  No one spoke.  Their gaze was on the cards and their ears alert for one word.

“Only a few people know this: my husband is a recovering alcoholic.  He has been sober for three years.  It was hard for him to stop drinking, but he did it.  We are still adjusting to our new life.”

“Three years is a long time, honey.”  She said as she leaned in closer.

I wanted to tell my aunt everything but I couldn’t.

“I know, but right now he is focused on his work and staying sober.  I can wait.”

“Are you getting help, have you gone to meetings?  They really do help.”

How does she know about meetings? Look away, look away!

“Ya I go to meetings, we both do.  We are working on it.”

“That’s good…”  I don’t remember what she said next.  I was trying to hide my pain and fight the tears.

Finally, I said,  “when my parents had their 50th anniversary party, my mother said, ‘Fifty years, and they weren’t all happy.’  Well, how do I know if these are the years that aren’t so happy?”

“You know if you have a good foundation.  You have to be good to each other; but remember, you are responsible for your own happiness.”

BINGO!

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Hope

July 31, 2011

“I think you should get her thyroid checked.”

“Her what?”

“Her thyroid.  Goldens are not supposed to be this shy.  She may be hypothyroid.”

That conversation happened at a dog-training center.  We were talking about Virginia, when she was about two years old.  I was taking a class to prepare her for her Canine Good Citizen Certificate (CGC).  She did not approach strangers, she was uncomfortable when anyone pet her, and no one was allowed to touch her feet.  I just accepted that she was shy; I did not imagine it could be the result of a medical condition.  After a few weeks of have having every person I saw pet her, touch her feet, and give her a treat, I made a vet appointment.  Virginia learned to tolerate the attention, but was still never as accepting as a Golden Retriever should be.

“Who told you to get her thyroid checked?”

“Natalie.”

“The dog trainer?  Oh, . . . there is no need to test her thyroid.  If she had a thyroid problem, her coat would be thinner she would have dry skin, and be overweight.  Virginia is healthy.  She is just shy.  Some dogs are shy, even Golden Retrievers.”

Most people think I am outgoing, because I talk a lot and I have no trouble talking to strangers.  I am equally comfortable instructing a small group of adults and a gymnasium full of elementary students.  I do, however, have a problem making friends and forming long-term relationships.  I have only a few close friends.  Typically, I only contact them when things are going well.  When I hit a rough patch, I keep to myself.  The friends who know me best know exactly how long to leave me alone, until they call or visit to bring me back to life.

When I met Bob, we were working together in Charleston, South Carolina.  The company was recruiting people from all over the country to build a “World Class Manufacturing Plant.”  The first time he saw me, he told his friend, “Now, that’s trouble.”  At the time, I was married to someone else, so I said no the first time he asked me out.  The next time he asked, I said yes.  My husband was still living in Indiana, and it was becoming clear he was not planning on moving.  I was also realizing that I ran away from him, as much as I went to a new job.  When it came to fight or flight, I always chose flight.

Not long after that first date with Bob, my life changed dramatically.  I divorced my husband, moved in with Bob, got laid off from work, found a new job, and moved to Nashville.  During the time we were separated, Bob held our relationship together.  On several occasions, I said I could not handle a long-distance relationship and I wanted him to let me go.  He is a fighter.  He fought to keep his job and me.

Bob was the last one out of the building, when the plant closed 18 months later.  He got a job with the new owners in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and convinced me to come with him.  We got married 5 months later.  Bob and I stayed in Wisconsin from New Year’s Day to Valentine’s Day three years later, before moving to the Chattanooga area to build a manufacturing business.  We were working together again and I was happy, really happy, for 12 years.

Virginia did not pass her CGC; she failed, not on the touching tests, but on the separation test.  She did not like being left with Natalie for three minutes without me.  She pulled, barked and lunged on the leash to get to me across the training building.  I was not upset we failed; she wanted to be with me, and that meant more to me than a certificate.  After the test, Natalie recommended Virginia and I take her obedience class, saying that it would help socialize her.  So we did.

On the first night of class, a small, mixed breed dog leaned into her and growled.  Virginia fled under a table.  Then the dog blocked the entry into the training ring.  The dog’s owner did nothing to manage his dog, so I picked up Virginia and carried her over the threshold.

“Don’t pick her up.”

“She was afraid.”

Natalie said, “Put her down.  She needs to learn how to behave around other dogs.”

I thought, “What are you correcting me for.  The owner of the other dog did nothing when his dog chased her away.  That dog and owner need to learn how to behave around other dogs.  In the meantime, I am going to protect Virginia.”

I later learned that picking her up was the wrong thing to do, but for a different reason.  Picking a dog up like that makes the dog and the person the target for attack.  That did not happen.  Virginia was safe, which was all that mattered.  I have been teased and made fun of my whole life, and there were many times when I wished someone would pick me up and carry me to safety.  I didn’t pick her up anymore, but I did get her out of harm’s way every time she was threatened.

Three years ago, life took another turn.  The owner of Bob’s business sold it to some bankers.  The workplace was becoming hostile and he did not want me to get hurt; so Bob fired me.  For the first time, Bob started losing his grip on his work and his life.  So, Bob stopped drinking.  He withdrew into his work and his program.

While he was holding on to his job and his sobriety, I was holding on to him.  Then Virginia got cancer and died.   I felt so alone, I wanted to jump into the grave with her.  I cried for months.  I still cry.  Many of my friends believe I am having such a hard time with Virginia’s death, because I am mourning two losses: Virginia and my marriage.  Now my mother is dead.

Friends are asking how long I will stay with Bob.  He is hardly ever home and when he is, he barely talks to me.  He spends all of his time at work or at meetings.  They say, “It’s been 3 years of grief and it may be time to move on.”

They are right.  It is time to move on, I need to quit grieving not my marriage.  All my life, I have run away from my problems.  This time I want to stay.

I am feeling better.  Wisconsin is beginning to fill the space that Virginia once held.  She has brought play and joy back into the house, into my life.  I don’t feel alone anymore.  My mother is with me all the time now.  We are no longer separated by time and distance.  Bob is working hard to make a good life for us.  What I need to do is stop pulling against the leash.  He can’t pick me up; but if I wait, he will come to me.  Barking and lunging will not bring him closer.  I am moving on.  I am done grieving for my past, and I am staying right here.  This time, I will not flee.  I will fight.

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Lost

May 19, 2011

My mother just died suddenly.  Ma and Dad were on a cruise when she had cardiac arrest.  They were in South America at the time.  After having a good day together, they went to their cabin to take a nap.  She woke up coughing and died moments later.  It took one week for my father to get home.  It took an additional week for my mother to arrive.  I made the trip to my family’s house in nineteen hours.  I had two of my dogs with me.  My parents each traveled alone.

While at my father’s house, I let the dogs out into the side yard to take care of their business and to play.  I was on the phone making arrangements for my mother’s services.  When I came back, they were gone.  I called them but they did not come.  I ran in the house to tell my father, and then ran out to the street to start looking for them.  I asked everyone I saw if they had seen them.  I explained, they did not live here; they did not know how to get home.  Some of the neighbors did see them.  One said they went up the street, the other said they saw them going down the same street.  The man who lives on the corner directly behind my father said they were playing in his yard, then ran off “in that direction,” as he pointed toward the golf course.

It took two weeks for my mother to come home.  The cruise line and the insurance company arranged everything.  My brother and sister-in-law were in constant contact with them, making decisions about the details of her processing and her trip home.  Her passport was with her, along with documentation from the ship describing her medical condition and treatment prior to her death.  Two death certificates were prepared, one in Spanish and one in English.  The English version was with her when she arrived in Boston, along with customs documents and a bag of black sand.  It was a Friday night when the plane landed.  A car from the funeral home was there to get her.  She was home.

When my dogs were gone for over an hour without being seen, I began to worry.  Where could they have gone?  They must have wandered beyond the neighborhood.  There is a golf course very close to my father’s house.  Several of his neighbors told me, when their dogs ran off, that is where they would go.  We contacted the clubhouse and asked them to call us if the dogs showed up there.  When the call came, my brother and I rushed to get there.  One dog, Boston, was playing in the pond and in the woods.  When we grabbed him and leashed him, he was not the least concerned that he did not know where he was or that I was worried about him.  He knew I would find him and bring him home, just as I did each time he’d run off in the past.

The groundskeeper who found Boston drove me around in a golf cart to look for Memphis.  Then my family converged on the golf course to look.  He was not there.

My parents bought their plot and marker several years ago.  The plot was in the same cemetery as their friends.  The area they chose was new.  It had just been cleared of trees.  On the day we went to the cemetery to make the arrangements, we learned that we had to pick out a plot.

“I thought we had a plot,” my father said.”  “No, you picked out the area.  Now you have to pick the exact plot”.  To help him understand this, I told him, “Dad, you picked out the neighborhood, now you have to pick the house”.  He chose a spot close to a water fountain and a stone bench.  When the trees mature, there will be lots of shade.

We continued to look for Memphis.  I showed everyone I saw a picture of him on my cell phone.  I gave them my business card and asked them to call if they saw him.  My nieces and nephews joined the search.  They rode their bikes around the neighborhood.  My sister drove her car up and down the streets.  We all whistled and called his name.  When darkness approached, we went back to my father’s house in despair.  We all knew Memphis would be spending the night outside.  Everyone went home and it was just my father and I.  He felt awful about Memphis being lost.  I felt awful that he felt awful.  He had lost his wife.  I’d lost a dog.  It is not the same.

I did not sleep that night.  In the morning, I was out looking for him as soon as the sun came out.  I went beyond the neighborhood to places I did not go the day before.  By now, everyone in the neighborhood knew what he looked like and how to contact me.  I was at least ten miles away from my father’s house when Bob called.  He told me someone had found Memphis.

The story is, when some local person let their dog in, Memphis came into the house, too.  When Memphis finally stopped circling their kitchen island, they got Bob’s name and phone number from the plate on his collar.  I rushed to the address Bob gave me, which was less than a mile away from my father’s house.

When I arrived, I was overwhelmed with emotion, and so glad to see him.  Memphis was indifferent.  He knew I would find him, just as I had done before.

The wake was at the funeral home where my parents have been too many times before.  The funeral was in the Catholic church where we were confirmed and where my sister and two of my brothers were married.  It was nice.  After the service, we drove my mother to her final resting spot near the fountain and stone bench.  She is close to where my father lives and very near their friends.

I stayed at my father’s house a few more weeks to help him adjust.  Bob brought Carolina and Wisconsin with him, when he came for my mother’s services.  When he left, he took Boston, Memphis and Wisconsin with him.  Carolina stayed with me.  We slept in the room down the hall from the room I grew up in.  My old room was now my mother’s craft room.  It is full of needlework, yarn and fabric.  This is also where she kept her computer and paperwork.  Each day, I sorted through these things and kept my father company.

When it was time, I packed up my belongings and some of my mother’s, and loaded them in the car.  I had a nineteen-hour drive.  I didn’t have a passport or a collar that could help me get to where I was going.  I was not in the neighborhood, close to my family.  I did not know how to get home.  There was nobody making travel arrangements for me.  There was no one looking for me.  I did not know the neighborhood or the house where I belonged.  All I knew for sure was I wanted to be with my father, with my family.  I wanted to be in my old room.  Or in my mother’s room.  I envy my mother.  She was never lost; she always knew where home was.  She is home now.  She is in a different house, but in the same neighborhood.