What’s in a name?

My very first dog was a rescue dog. It was 1980 and I was working at a boarding kennel. In addition to operating a boarding kennel, the owners of the kennel were active in AKC conformation dog shows, and they were also involved in dog rescue. They had previously shown Doberman Pinschers and helped out with a Doberman rescue group, but had recently become involved in showing Whippets.

A friend of theirs in another state who was a Whippet breeder had alerted them that a woman in our area who had purchased one of her puppies was probably going to be advertising him in the local newspaper.

The woman had purchased the pup at 8 weeks, and he was now 9 months old and she wanted her money back because they couldn’t housetrain him and he was “just a bad dog.” The breeder offered to take the puppy back but would not refund the money (which was clearly stated in the purchase contract). They got into a heated argument and the woman hung up on her. The breeder asked that the kennel owners keep an eye on the newspapers and attempt to acquire the dog if possible. She would be traveling to the area for a dog show in a few months and could take him back with her.

Sure enough within a few weeks there was an ad for a 9 month old Whippet. The ad said he was “show quality” even though he had been originally sold as pet quality (and anyone who knew anything about the breed would have known immediately that he was not a show dog by any means). He was also cryptorchid, which is a disqualification for conformation showing. She was trying to sell him for twice what she had paid for him originally.

My boss responded to the ad, and asked about his pedigree to be sure he was indeed the pup from her friend. She told the woman that she had Whippets and was involved in dog rescue, and offered to take the dog, but would not pay for him. I’m not sure exactly what the details of the conversation were, but a week or so later the woman called the kennel and said something about needing to “get rid” of the dog before they went on vacation. They arranged to have her come to the kennel after hours to drop him off.

When she arrived at the kennel, she had a small boy with her who proceeded to grab handfuls of the dogs skin and pinch it while he was sitting in her lap. My boss had to struggle not to scream at the little boy, but her priority was to get the dog, so she held her tongue. The woman explained again what a “bad dog” he was and said they had been keeping him in the garage because he wasn’t housetrained. The dog was very thin and pretty pathetic looking in general.

I met him the next day. His name was Duke. In short order we decided that he needed a new name. Because he was so skinny they were thinking along the lines of something like Skelly (for skeleton). I suggested Twiggy after the super thin model from the 60’s, but that was rejected because he was a male. So then I said he looked like a stick drawing of a dog and his new name became obvious Stickie!

I had been wanting to get a dog of my own forever, and had an idea of several different breeds, but fate apparently had other ideas. I spent a lot of time with Stickie at work, and my boss allowed me to take him with me on my lunch hour. He was very sweet and we became quite fond of each other. By the time the breeder arrived several weeks later, he had become quite bonded to me, and I had decided I wanted him to be mine if at all possible. I asked her if I could purchase him. She smiled and said if I wanted him, he was mine and refused to take any money from me.

I took Stickie everywhere with me, and he was always perfectly behaved. Housetraining him using a crate was actually quite easy. His only issue was separation anxiety, but even that was relatively mild.

One day after Stickie had been with me for a few months, I took him with me to the law office where my sister was working. He was always a hit wherever I took him because most people had never seen a Whippet. One of the office gals asked what his name was. I said “I call him Stickie.” She said “No, what was his name when you got him? You know his real name?” I said “his real name is Stickie, but before I got him his name was Duke.” She said “Oh, Hi Duke!” Stickie looked at her and ran behind my legs to hide. We were all a bit stunned, and then she said “I’m sorry, Stickie, you’re a good boy Stickie.” He shyly looked at her and then wagged his tail and went over to greet her.

I never forgot that day, and it heavily influenced my attitude toward renaming rescue dogs. It helped me develop my “new life, new name” motto.

Most of the adult dogs that I have pulled from shelters were strays, so giving them a new name was expected. Owner surrenders were a different matter. Those dogs had names, but those names were also connected to their previous lives. I always changed dog’s names when they came into the rescue and told anyone who adopted a dog that they should feel free to change the dog’s name if they wanted to. Often they would say “Oh, no that’s his name I won’t change it.” My response was “that’s the name he’s had since he’s been with me. He learned that name, he can learn another one just as easily.” Then to make my point, I would ask them how many nick names their previous dogs had that they responded to just as reliably as their actual name.

Stickie was with me thorough many life changes in my 20’s and 30’s. He lived to the ripe old age of 17. He was one of those “one in a million” dogs and I still miss him. He started me on my path to becoming a veterinary technician, and rescue advocate.

 

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Stickie

 

 

 

Comments and opinions

I am going to try to address the subject of comments in this post in order to set some ground rules. I know that seems a bit controlling, but hey it’s my blog so I can do what I want!

If you would like to post a comment that’s great of course, BUT (oh no the dreaded but) I am writing this blog to share my stories, not for someone else to give me suggestions or advice regarding my dogs. Because guys, I don’t need your advice, seriously.

So who do I think I am? Some expert on dogs? Well frankly yes I am. No I don’t know everything about dogs, but after spending my entire adult life working with dogs I think I am qualified to be considered an expert. Besides, if I need advice I have access to professionals like trainers, behaviorists, and veterinarians who are colleagues of mine that I can consult.

What I don’t need is for you to tell me some story about your friend’s uncle’s dog that is an awesome dog that he trained by barking at it. Guess what? He just got lucky and has a great dog in spite of how he trained it. I don’t need you to suggest an awesome new food that someone who works at a big box pet store told you about. Guess what? They’re paid to sell you food. They are not veterinary nutritionists.

For close to 30 years I have been contacted multiple times a week by family, friends, and clients seeking my counsel on everything from training and behavioral issues with their dogs, to suggestions for types of leashes, collars, toys, chew toys, bowls, and yes what food and treats to use. I am also often asked for guidance regarding basic medical questions, mostly about symptoms, medications or whether or not a call to the veterinarian is warranted.

I am also going to ask you to refrain from asking me personally for advice via the comments page. If you need advice regarding your dog particularly in the areas of training, behavior issues or medical questions – PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, seek out a local professional. Don’t ask your neighbors, or your co-workers, or your mechanic, or your plumber for advice about your dog. Ask someone who’s job it actually is to work with DOGS for crying out loud! You wouldn’t ask your veterinarian to fix your car, or unplug a drain would you?? And don’t ask people who work in pet stores either. They are there to sell you stuff, and they may love animals, but that does not necessarily make them qualified to advise you. Do you think they’d be working in a pet store if they had the type of training or advanced education required to warrant giving you advice? I am not bashing pet store employees, they are valuable for helping you buy basic supplies, but don’t think that because they happen to sound like they know a lot about dog food that they actually do. It’s called salesmanship. They may have even participated in a “seminar” by a pet food representative educating them about that rep’s company’s food. That is still called salesmanship. They’re being educated in how to sell that particular food.

If you need help sorting out who you should contact for help, I’d be happy to try to assist you in finding someone in your area who is qualified to give you decent professional advice.

Now my other bugaboo about comments. Anyone who gets into an argument with another reader through posts on the comments page, or uses the comment page as a platform for their own agenda will quickly find that your comments are not showing up on the feed. If you have a strong opinion about something and feel a need to vent, write your own blog, don’t use mine.

Like many of you, I do have strong opinions about a variety of dog related issues. It is possible that on occasion I may get on my soap box, but as I said in my first post, this blog is primarily to share stories about my crazy life sharing my home with a whole bunch of dogs, and I hope to keep it light for the most part.

As my father used to say “A wise man once told me – opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one and they’re mostly full of crap.” Actually this is my variation on my dad’s variation on the quote, which as it turns out originated with Harry Callahan, the fictional character played by Clint Eastwood in the “Dirty Harry” movies.

Welcome!

Welcome to the land of misfit dogs. My hope with this blog is to share entertaining stories about my life with a bunch of rescue dogs.

Here’s what I DON’T plan to do with my blog…even though my dogs are all rescue dogs and most have come from not so nice places, and some have been down right actually mistreated, I do not plan to focus repeatedly on their sad stories or on their handicaps.

The exception will be the Cast of Characters page where I will give a brief backstory on each dog. It’s important to know where they came from, but we don’t focus on that once they come into our pack. We don’t have any “oh that poor little dog” pity parties here. Here it’s all about going forward. Dogs pick up on our emotions and I strongly believe that feeling sorry for an already anxious or confused dog doesn’t do them any favors.

Whenever I take in a new dog (whether it is a dog I am adopting, or in the past a dog that I was fostering), I sit with them and give them what I call “the speech”. I tell them that they are now safe, that their life will be better than it has been, and that I will do all that I can to make sure that nothing bad ever happens to them again. On more than one occasion after “the speech” I actually heard an audible sigh from the dog sitting on the car seat next to me.

Since it is commonly thought that dogs live in the present, that is how I try to live with my dogs. We don’t dwell on our old lives, because they are where they belong, in the past. Once a dog joins our little pack we don’t feel sorry for them, we show them what a nice life feels like. However, if you were to ask the dogs I’m sure some of them do feel a little sorry for themselves on occasion when they don’t get some of whatever I happened to be eating.

As a young girl my dream was to live with a houseful of dogs and for the past 11 years I’ve had the good fortune to live that dream. I currently live with a small pack of adopted rescue dogs (and a few cats) who I lovingly call my misfits. I call them misfits because many of them were originally deemed “unadoptable” due to physical or behavioral handicaps of one sort or another that put them high on the euthanasia list at shelters. My back ground in the veterinary field combined with my ongoing involvement in the world of dog training and behavior  made me uniquely equipped to provide a home for such dogs.

It also helps that at this time in my life I am fortunate enough to be home full time for the most part.  Aside from the occasional appointment with my training clients, I am rarely away from home. On average I would say I am gone for maybe 2 to 3 hours a few times a month.

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Left to right – Pip, Monty and Dexter

 

I’ll try to post pretty much every day but I know better than to make promises, so sometimes I’ll just post a photo if I don’t have much to say. I have LOTS of pictures of my dogs past and present, and of the dogs that I fostered over the years.