Thursday, March 31, 2011

All in the Family

Crystal, her husband, and their three daughters share a home with three dogs. There's Valentine, a 9-year-old miniature rat terrier; Lula, a 4-year-old chihuahua; and Adobe, a 2-year-old Doberman. The senior of the pack has been with Crystal the longest. She describes Valentine as the neurotic one who loves Crystal, Crystal's middle daughter, tennis balls, and pine cones.

Although the three dogs get along great, Crystal explains that Valentine is the loner. Exhibiting a classic case of lap-dog-itis, Valentine prefers to be held like a baby or to hide beneath pillow flaps and blankets.

Although Lula is apprehensive about Adobe's size, they often play together, chasing and stalking each other in the house and backyard. Valentine fetches only her coveted tennis balls and pine cones and is otherwise uninterested in joining the two younger dogs in play. 

You'd think that with three dogs, one of them a Doberman, sleeping arrangements would be a bit of a nightmare. But it's not. All three dogs sleep indoors. Adobe sleeps between Crystal and her husband and has his own blanket, which is referred to as the "woobie." Valentine sleeps with Crystal's middle daughter, and Lula sleeps with Crystal's oldest daughter. 

But what about food and water stations? Surely the little dogs, especially neurotic Valentine, get territorial with their food and water bowls, right? Wrong! Crystal seems to have lucked out immensely with these three. She tells Training Humans:  
Feeding areas were easy to sort out. The dog bowls are all lined up and each dog knows which bowl is theirs. Valentine will actually bring her bowl to you when it is time to eat. Because it's easier on their digestive systems, we feed them three times a day. None of the dogs has an issue with humans being near them while they're eating. Lula is sneaky; she likes to wait for Adobe to get distracted and walk away from his bowl and tries eating his food. And he will growl at her if he catches her doing it, but there's no real outward aggression.

Crystal emphasizes that repetition is key. She set the rules and established a daily routine for the three dogs. And the dogs eased into that routine and learned to cooperate with one another. 

Toys are another matter. Because Adobe is so strong, he can easily chew apart toys, even tennis balls and Kongs. Of course this means he eats them. Therefore, Crystal limits the mischievous Doberman to rope toys and tugs. The other two dogs' toys are off limits. Don't think Adobe is the only troublemaker, though.

Lula prefers plush toys because she enjoys shaking them. Since her toys are off limits to Adobe, however, they are kept upstairs. So when Lula finds herself downstairs and really wants to shake something, she'll sneak away with one of Adobe's ropes. And that's not all. Lula waits until Adobe and Valentine aren't playing with their toys and then filches them, piles them in her little dog bed, and sits on them. 

Lula is the only one of the three that enjoys watching television. She particularly likes the Disney Channel, most notably the early morning cartoons. Adobe is more of an outdoors dog, so naturally he dabbles in rescue work. Adobe has found and brought home to Crystal a rare breed of woodpecker, a turtle that he sneaked into the house and cuddled with on the couch, and most recently, Walter. 

Walter fell out of his nest and Adobe answered the baby squirrel's cries in the family's backyard. Adobe brought him home, so Crystal had no choice but to nurse the baby squirrel and set him up in a cage, where he sleeps when he's not loose exploring or hanging out in the potted plant. 

How do the other dogs react to the little guy? Valentine seems mesmerized by him and stares at him in his cage for hours. Lula is only interested in picking up whatever food Walter drops. Poor Adobe simply wants to love his Walter and lick him, only to have Walter swat him on his nose.

Training Humans asked Crystal how she manages to give the three dogs equal time and whether it's impossible not to play favorites. 
We don't play favorites. We give them each one-on-one time doing the things we know each dog enjoys. We love them all equally and the dogs will snuggle with everyone. Sometimes it looks like I'm just a head on the sofa because they all lay on top of me, and it's a bit tricky to pet three dogs with two hands, but I manage. Adobe goes to the dog park, Valentine gets to go outside in the front yard and play kick the pine cone, and Lula likes playing tug and isn't shy about getting your attention when she's in the mood to play.
Crystal says she and the rest of her family are animal people. They don't see three dogs, a squirrel, and even a bird as too much to handle. Their living space accommodates all of them nicely. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Layla and Dieter, Sitting in a Tree...

Monica considers herself a dog person, even though she hasn't always had a pet. She grew up with dogs in her household - had three of them, one after the other, with the last of them passing away 7 years ago. 

She has since moved in with her boyfriend and his 4½-year-old pug, Layla. Monica's boyfriend has had Layla since she was 6 months old, when he answered a local classified ad announcing her owner needed to surrender her. After years of Layla being the only household pooch, Monica decided it was time for her to have a dog to call her own and to keep Layla some company. She adopted 8-year-old Dieter - a long-haired dachshund - from Circle of Friends Animal Society.

The idea of bringing in a new dog into your home when you already have a dog can be a little daunting. As with most things regarding pet ownership, it requires time, patience, and an adjustment period. Things don't always work out, either. Chances are if you got your second dog from a shelter (which is always ideal) then the folks at the shelter will let you know to simply bring the dog back if this is the case. 

It wasn't the case with Layla and Dieter, however, which was happy news for Monica and her boyfriend. She took certain advisable steps when she first brought Dieter home. 

Here's what Monica had to say: 
I was very happy to see that Layla reacted well to Dieter upon meeting him. I think she was very curious about him because he's the polar opposite of her (she's a pug and he's a dachshund)! We first had them sniff each other on loose leashes, then relocated to an enclosed room off-leash so they could run around together. After that, we took them outside for a walk. A few more sniffs and licks to his face later, Layla seemed to accept Dieter as a potential addition to our family so we adopted him that day!

A month later, Layla and Dieter look like they are old familiars. 

Monica happily reports that they get along better and better each day. They nap together and have become huge cuddle-buddies. Neither dog gets territorial over food or toys. In fact, Dieter doesn't pay much attention to the toys Monica got for him.

Monica's lucky - the two pooches just took to each other in the most ideal possible way. But what about money? I asked Monica whether she felt a financial hit now that she'd taken in a second dog. 
I don't believe there has been much of a change financially caring for another dog. It was somewhat more expensive initially because we had to buy things for a new dog (crate, leash, collar, etc.) but thankfully you only buy those things once! Overall, there hasn't been a giant leap in costs.
Steps Monica took:
  • She adopted Dieter from a rescue organization that pulls dogs from high-kill shelters. That opens up a space for another dog that the organization can pull out of harm's way.
  • She didn't adopt him right away. She was honest about having a dog in the house who had been used to being top and only dog for 4 years and asked to introduce him to Layla the pug to see how things went.
  • She leashed both dogs before bringing them into the same space together for the first time. Leashing them helps equalize the playing field, neutralizes it so that Layla does not feel like Dieter is trampling on her turf.
  • She took them into another space and let them off leash while supervising them to see how they would behave after initial sniffing.
  • She leashed them again and took them both for a walk. This helps them burn a little energy and lets you get a feel of how they will do outside together. 
If you are considering the possibility of bringing a second dog into your home and have any concerns, leave me a comment below and I will be happy to give advice and answer any questions you may have. Consider, too, checking out your local shelters. There are a vast number of dogs available, many of them pure breed, and you never know: you may end up saving a dog's life and giving your pooch a new best bud.

Training Humans wishes Monica's family the best of luck.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Saving Molly, Twice

A pure-bred German Rottweiler, Molly was a stray wandering around with her sick puppy when Jennifer found and rescued her. Molly has been with Jennifer ever since and is now between 8 and 10 years old.

Jennifer never imagined she'd ever need to get rid of Molly. But life happens. Evicted from her apartment, Jennifer had little time to find a new home and faced an unfortunate obstacle. Her new would-be landlord does not allow Rottweilers in the apartment complex; they are not, along with pit bulls and other large breeds, on the landlord's list of acceptable breeds.

With time quickly running out, Jennifer enlisted the help of her friend Leslie and started looking for a new home for Molly. She passed out flyers at local vets and businesses and started a Facebook page dedicated to sharing Molly's story with as many people as possible in the hopes of finding her a new home. Leslie even stepped up and took Molly into her own home, despite potentially drawing unwanted attention from her own landlord.

Jennifer and Leslie exhausted every possible effort to place Molly at a safe place, rather than just set her loose in the street or dump her at an animal control center that would have probably euthanized her within weeks, if not days, in the event no person stepped in to foster or adopt her.

Just a few days after starting the Facebook campaign, which included others campaigning on Molly's behalf via Twitter and blogs directing interested parties to the Facebook link, Jennifer found Molly a foster home. Molly's story is not over yet, but it's in a far better place thanks to her owner's savvy and Leslie's generosity.

Steps Jennifer took:

  • Accepted the very difficult reality that she would have to part from her dog.
  • Printed and passed out flyers in an effort to find Molly a new foster or forever home.
  • Launched a Facebook page to reach a greater audience.
  • Asked her friend for help spreading the word.
  • Made sure Molly was up-to-date with all her vaccines. 
  • Made sure to inform people Molly is fixed, housebroken, and has a sweet temperament, but Jennifer was honest about Molly's tendency to be territorial around other large breeds. 
Steps Leslie took: 
  • Reached out to others with extensive contacts so they could help find Molly a home.
  • Took Molly in for a few days so Jennifer could deal with her situation.
  • Made calls to people who came forward expressing interest in adopting or fostering Molly and followed up with them.
  • Was ready to drive Molly to her new home and transport her at least part of the way should someone outside Texas want to take her in. 
  • Researched no-kill shelters and called them to see about their ability to take in Molly (all the no-kill shelters Leslie contacted were full and unable to take her).
If you ever find yourself in a situation like Jennifer's or simply decide you no longer want to keep your pet, please review these steps and take them. True, finding a home for a pet requires time and patience, but even something as quick as posting a status message on Facebook or Twitter could go a long way to ensuring a pet doesn't end up on the street or on a shelter's EUTH list. 

And don't be afraid to get a little help from your friends. If you have no time - for whatever reason - to research no-kill shelters or print flyers, find someone you know who can and will. 

Are you thinking about getting rid of your pet? Leave a comment here, and I will help you.