Bubba’s Story–Part 2

Today Bubba is making his journey to his forever home.022

I talked about the start of Bubba’s journey here, but never finished it.

Where I last left off, we had gone to visit Bubba at his adoptive home.  He was happy, loved his new mom, and loved his new brother. 

A week or so after that visit I got a message from his adoptive mom – she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and would not be able to keep Bubba.

The whole situation was horrible – she didn’t want to give up her dog, but it was more important for her to deal with her health than to worry about caring for a young dog.

So again, we took him back.  And have had him ever since.291

Now…the sweet part to the story.

A woman in Colorado had been following his story ever since we pulled him from the shelter in New York last September.  She had fallen in love with him then, and when she found out he was available (again) for adoption, jumped at the chance to snatch him up.  My friend, who is on the rescue board, is going to drive him to Buffalo, where a doggy transport will pick him up and take him to Colorado.

It will be the perfect home for him.IMG_1224

But still I’m sad.

I’m going to miss his adorable little face, his soft dense fur, the annoying way he always had to touch you when you were walking through the house, him barking when he gets excited, and how he bounces when he tries to get another dog to play.

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I know he’ll be happy.

But knowing that he waited for 20 minutes at the door for me after I left him today breaks my heart. I can’t explain to him what’s happening, he just thinks I left him behind again. And I hate knowing that he’ll be waiting for me to come back for him. I feel like I’ve abandoned him. I know I haven’t, but he doesn’t know that.

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So I’m taking today to wallow in sadness and self pity, but tomorrow I will be happy that I saved his life, and got to know one of the neatest dogs I have ever met, and bring him to where he was meant to be.

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Maybe one day I’ll figure out why the story went the way it did. Until then, I’ll just be grateful to have known him.

 

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Bubba’s Story Part 1

I apologize in advance if this isn’t something you expected or wanted to read.  But it’s something I needed to write.

Last summer I reluctantly agreed to be a foster for the New Orleans Lab Rescue (NOLA).  My friend Pam, who is on the board, coerced Shawn and me into fostering one of 9 puppies they had pulled from a shelter in New York state and brought across the border to Ontario. We weren’t really looking to foster, as the last time we fostered we “failed” and kept Rocky, but as a favour to a friend we said yes. Plus the puppies were super adorable, and it was hilarious to see all of them pile onto each other and chase each other.

We ended up with a little yellow girl, nicknamed Dainty.

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She was very smart and got along well with Scout, although Scout gets along well with everything.  Rocky doesn’t “do” puppies, so he took a bit longer to warm up to her but was a tolerant, if not gracious, host.   She stayed with us for only a week – my Facebook pleading and endless picture posting worked, and she was adopted by a girl I knew from my gym.  They loved her from the first moment they saw her, and when we saw the family with Dainty (now Izzie) we just knew it was meant to be. Successful fostering. I didn’t even cry as we drove away, because really, it was the perfect home and she’d been with us for such a short time.  End of fostering story.

Yeah, right.

Flash forward a couple of weeks, and I came across a posting on the NOLA Facebook page about a blind 8 month old yellow lab that needed to be pulled from a shelter in New York.  Pam had commented that if she could find a foster home for him they’d be able to pull him, otherwise we had to hope that one of the other rescue groups in the area would step up to help him.  I took one look at his face and my heart stopped.

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His resemblance to Rocky was just uncanny, and his carefree grin and kind eyes spoke to a wonderful soul in that furry body.  I had to help him.

I instantly sent a text to Shawn, along with Bubba’s picture, asking if he was ready for us to foster again.  “He’s just a puppy, we shouldn’t have him for a super long time.”  He, too, was struck by the similarities between Bubba and Rocky, and agreed to go along with my plan.  I shot Pam a message, who was surprised, although grateful.  We had originally not wanted to foster any male dogs, as Rocky seems to get along better with females, and a dog that age could make things a lot more difficult in our house.  Still, I had to try.

Bubba was pulled from the shelter and spent a week with a fellow foster in New York before Pam drove across the border to get him the long weekend in September.  We picked up him from her place that Sunday, and the chaos began.  Going from one dog to two is one thing, but going from 2 to 3 is a whole other ballgame.  I’d forgotten what kind of energy an 8 month old Lab puppy has, and he brought out the puppy in both Scout and Rocky.  There were endless three dog wrestling matches in our small living room, and the walls have scars to prove it. It was triple the work now to bring the dogs to work. Oh, and Bubba had separation issues, which meant  barking and throwing himself at the glass door of the run. And barking at home. And barking at the other dogs when they were playing. There was a lot of barking.

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There really isn’t much of a difference between a dog born blind and a dog born with sight.  A dog doesn’t know he’s blind; he just thinks that this is how the world is supposed to be, and adapts to it.  The other dogs don’t know he’s blind and can’t tell him as much, so they all continue on with their dog lives and no one is the wiser.  It is amazing to watch Bubba navigate through the house.  He can jump on the couch, play keep away around the coffee table, and chase the cats just like the other dogs can.  If it wasn’t for his tendency to occasionally walk into walls or other object he didn’t expect, you’d never know he couldn’t see.

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There were a few applications for Bubba initially, but none we felt was the right fit.  Then came the “dream” application – a woman with two sons, who had had a blind lab before.  Score! The home visit went well, and after 5 weeks with us, on Thanksgiving weekend (that’s Canadian Thanksgiving folks) his new family came to pick him up.  He jumped into the car and settled into his new boys’ laps like he’d been doing it forever.  And this time, I did cry.  But only a little. And so our fostering story was over. Or so we thought.

Over the next month I corresponded with his new “mom” numerous times about various behavioural issues she was having with him, things he hadn’t displayed in the time we’d had him.  They started going to a trainer that Pam knew, and everything seemed to be going well.  Until I got a message from Pam that they couldn’t deal with his issues any longer, and although they loved him, they weren’t prepared to train a young dog.

Blind or not, a 9 month old lab puppy is not the kind of dog you can just snap a leash to and expect them to behave.  We were all devastated, and felt that we had let Bubba down.  Shawn and I agreed that we couldn’t let him go to another foster home and went to pick him up.  He was still the same old Bubba, goofy and crazy and still just as soft as ever.  He definitely seemed to remember us.  When we got him home, after an initial scuffle with Rocky (YOU AGAIN?), it was like he had never left.  He knew where everything was, he moved around the furniture like he hadn’t been away for over a month, and he even remembered the dinner time routine and where we had kept his crate before.  It broke my heart a little, to think that he had all these memories of our home stored in his tiny little brain, and that we had sent him away in the first place.

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The search for his forever home began again.  Everyone kept telling us that maybe this was a sign, maybe we should keep him.  But as much as I loved him (and still love him), he’s not supposed to be our dog.  I would love for him to always be here, but there is a lot of stress both time and financially with another big dog in the house.  Anyway…

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Again, the perfect application came in.  A young woman who lived maybe 10 minutes from our house had a 2 year old yellow lab, and wanted another to keep both her and her current dog company.  I did the home visit on my own, and after talking with her for minutes felt completely comfortable handing my Bubba over to her.  She was dog smart and understood what a lab puppy was like.  She wasn’t attracted to him because of his disability unlike so many of the other applications had been, but she was aware of it and was prepared to take it on.  It was the absolute perfect match – it was like adopting to myself. And this time, again, I didn’t cry – because it really, truly, was the perfect home for him.

We went and visited Bubba a couple of weeks after he was adopted and it was awesome to see how much he loved his new brother and his new home.  It reaffirmed what I’d known from the start – that this was the ideal situation for him.  But life doesn’t always, or really ever, go as smoothly as we’d planned.

I will finish this later today.  But for now I need to go back to sleep…

How To Choose A Dog: Part 1

Choosing a Breed and a Breeder

So far, for a blog called “Rock the Dogs” I’ve done very little talking ABOUT the dogs. Working as a vet tech and being a little dog crazy, I get asked a lot by friends and family and acquaintances how they should go about looking for a dog.  Also, in light of the fact that Bubba is being returned to the rescue, I think it is very important for people to really, really, REALLY think about what kind of dog is right for them, and where they get that dog. I thought that I might be able to sum it up fairly nicely here for anyone out there who might be interested. Part 1 will summarize how to choose a breeder and a breeder if that is how you are planning on looking for a dog.  Part 2 will talk about rescues and adoptions, while Part 3 will talk about what to do when you get your dog home.

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1. Choose a breed that’s right for your family and lifestyle.

This might seem obvious, but for a lot of people the breed they would LIKE to own doesn’t work with their lifestyle or circumstances.  Someone who works 12 hours a day and spends a lot of their spare time watching repeats of CSI on Spike (not that I’m doing that as I write this….not at all…) probably shouldn’t get a breed with a high energy level or that requires a lot of exercise or mental stimulation.  Similarly, someone who has an active lifestyle and, say, wants a dog to run with probably shouldn’t consider a basset hound.

There are many resources to find out the characteristics of the different dog breeds, as well as links to quizzes that can give you an idea of what kind of dog might be right for you. The Animal Planet dog breed quiz is short and fun, and actually had the labrador retriever as a 96% match for me when I filled it out. Don’t tell Scout and Rocky, though, they think they are a 100% match hands down.

As for breed characteristics, the American Kennel Club and Canada’s Guide to Dogs are excellent resources.   On each site you can find out the history of the breed as well as their characteristics, to compare the breeds to your lifestyle and your expectations.

Please keep in mind that no matter what some people say, dogs that are CROSSES are NOT BREEDS. That includes cockapoos (cocker spaniel x poodle), morkies (maltese x yorkie), labradoodles (lab x poodle), goldendoodles (golden retriever x poodle).  THESE ARE NOT BREEDS.  They cannot be reproduced from generation to generation (at least not predictably) – this means that you might be able to breeder 2 morkies together, but you cannot reliably predict what they will look like or what their behaviour will be like.  This is not true of PUREBRED dogs, where you can breed 2 labs together and always get puppies that are labs, looks like labs, and behave like labs.

I have absolutely nothing against mixed breed dogs (and yes, these dogs are MIXED breeds, NOT purebreds.  You cannot get a purebred goldendoodle) but I do have something against people breeding mixed breeds and selling them for the same price as or more than a purebred dog with an impeccable pedigree. These so-called breeders are ripping you off and just want your money – they might care about their dogs and their puppies but they are breeding to make money instead of bettering a breed, like GOOD purebred breeders do. One final thing – in Canada it is ILLEGAL to call a dog a purebred without providing CKC papers. Purebred puppies MUST be registered in Canada in order to be called purebred.  Off my soap box, and onto the next section:

2. Choosing the right breeder

When looking for a breeder there are so many things to take into consideration.  When we went looking for a breeder for our first puppy, we scoured the internet as well as Canada’s Guide to Dogs’ magazine.  We made a list of breeders that we liked the look of, then looked at their websites, checked their policies, and contacted exactly ONE of those breeders.

Grandriver Kennels is where we got Scout.  We had to fill out an application online before we could see the dogs or the kennel – this was so that the breeder could go over our information first to see if he was comfortable with us initially.  Good breeders care where they place their puppies – they don’t want them to end up in a home where they will be neglected, or abused, or rehomed.  They want them to go to a home where they will be well taken care of and where they will stay for life.

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Once he looked over our application he contacted us about doing a face-to-face meeting.  This was so he could ask us questions, we could ask him questions and see the facility, and also so we could meet all the dogs.  Our “brief” meeting turned into something closer to 3 hours as we just had so much to talk about.  At the end of the meeting he asked if we wanted to make a deposit on a puppy, and since we were impressed with him, the facility and the quality of the dogs, we said yes! Scout is very happy things happened this way, I’m sure.

The Canadian Kennel Club has a great list of Golden Rules to finding a breeder.  I’ll quickly summarize them here but please visit the link for further detail:

1 – Always visit the property.  As I stated above, this is to see how the dogs live, how many dogs are on the property, where the puppies will be born, etc.

2 – Always meet the mother dog.  If you can’t meet her, this is a big deal breaker.

3 – Your puppy should be registered. Like I said before, in Canada it is illegal to call a dog a purebred unless it is registered with the CKC and permanently identified.  The permanent id used to be tattoo (Rocky is tattooed) but most breeders now are microchipping their pups (Scout came with a microchip).

4 – Your breeder should show their dogs.  This is to prove that their dogs are good at what they do or are an excellent representation of the breed.  If they don’t show conformation, then they should be in obedience, or flyball, or tracking, or SOMETHING.  If their dogs are not exceptional, then why are they breeding them? (Brag – Scout’s breeder had the number 1 lab puppy in Canada in 2010 in conformation, and the same dog is currently the number 1 lab in Canada for 2011).

5- Your breeder should have all proper health tests performed on the breeding dogs – so hips, elbows, eyes, heart, etc.  Do your research and find out what tests are applicable to the breed you are interested in.

As you can tell I am very passionate about puppies and picking the proper puppy.  I’m a bit of a puppy snob, I guess, but I’m also concerned about the welfare of each and every dog.  If people are breeding for money and don’t care where their puppies go, or sell them sight unseen over the internet without meeting the new owner, or sell them to a pet store, or sell them on the side of the road – what’s to guarantee these dogs are not going to end up in a shelter, or on the street, or worse. And for the people who buy these puppies, what’s to guarantee you are getting a healthy dog, or one without behavioural problems, etc.

I hope this was somewhat informative and not too long or wordy – stay tuned for the next Picking a Puppy post on adopting from a rescue!

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Monday Musings

1.  I learned last week that my last foster dog (who pretty much stole my heart) is being returned to the rescue, and therefore me.  His mom was definitely not prepared to deal with a dog like him – ya know, a stubborn 10 month old lab.  It makes me sad, and angry, but also happy we get him back. This is Bubba:

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2.  I have clearly sucked at blogging this last week.  Nothing new has really happened  – had a great run at the Running Room last Wednesday, a great (no – amazing) run on my own on Friday, and then I worked all weekend. It was fairly quiet for a weekend, especially for a full moon, but we still had some interesting cases.

3.  This coming weekend at the gym we are having a workout “fundraiser” for the local food bank.  Entry to this workout is a non perishable food item and we have the “pleasure” of doing “Fran”, which is:

21-15-9 reps of 95lb thrusters (remember those??) and pull ups

I am going to die. Then I have a long run on the Sunday at the Running Room. Body = broken.

4.  Tonight I plan on hitting the gym and I will go for real this time and not just say I will and instead end up sitting on the couch all night watching Dr Phil or Dr Oz.