Sunday, December 9, 2007

Freckle-Lexi's first year as a Canadian

Today is the one year anniversary of Freckle-Lexi joining our family – today we’re celebrating her first Gotcha Day. That’s the day many of us who have adopted rescue animals celebrate, since we rarely know the day they were born, nor do we know their exact age.

We’ve seen so many changes in her over the last year. Each day, each week, each month, she’s settled in more and more, relaxing in her new home, stressing less, at least visibly, when we head out in the car to new destinations. It seems she’s finally realized that the new person she meets on the street, the friend who comes over for a visit, isn’t going to be the next person who whisks her away to yet another temporary home.

Some highlights of Freckle-Lexi’s life with us, at least from our perspective:

We meet for the first time in Marysville, Washington (that's this post's blog photo), and drive back to Canada with her – the border guard welcomes her as a new Canadian!

We try desperately to get her to pee that first day so we can go to bed that night – and she holds her urine for, as far as we know, more than 36 hours. Apparently, dogs in transit do that sometimes.

She starts going on neighbourhood walks and gets to explore her new home.

On New Year’s Day, we let her “off leash” for the first time at Spanish Banks West Beach, dragging a 30 foot leash just in case. She takes off up the beach at the warp speed and disappears into the distance, a tiny almost invisible speck. We wonder if she’s running back to Idaho, when she banks to the left and flies back up to the beach toward us. The result of her speedy return is described on Freckle’s and Ceilidh’s blog at I sure wish we had it on video.

Though we were told she was good with other dogs, Freckle starts getting snarky around the neighbourhood – in part, we think, because we have a dog living kitty-corner from us who stands on his third floor balcony and barks and snarls at us everytime we emerge from our door We decide to nip this in the bud and start looking for a trainer we can work with. All the tricks we’ve learned over the years with Bridget and Sassy are ineffective.

We find a great trainer and have a few private sessions and then start attending drop in group classes twice a week. We work outside the group, close enough to start the desensitization but distant enough to keep things under control. Three weeks later, we’re integrated into the group and it’s been great ever since. A comment from our trainer about a month ago: “How does it feel to have one of the stars of the class?” I say FANTASTIC! Check out some photos of Freckle in class on Flickr.

More impressions to come in future posts. It's been a wonderful year with this girl and we hope to have many, many more.

Friday, June 22, 2007

How do you know they’ve settled in?

One of the things that people with rescue dogs ponder is just how do they know their new adoptee has settled in and feels they’re there to stay. This is something I’ve found myself wondering about in the last few months with Freckle-Lexi. We adopted her from North Idaho Boxer Rescue on December 9th (see Freckle-Lexi and Ceilidh’s blog for her story and about meeting her for the first time).

Freckle-Lexi has been a quiet girl since we adopted her. She doesn’t bark when someone knocks at the door or rings the doorbell. She rolls out the red carpet for anyone we let through the door. I’ve been thinking that maybe she won’t make a very good protector like both Bridget and Sassy were. You know the kind of dog I mean – the one who wags her tail when the thief arrives, welcoming the company and holding the sack while your belongings are being tossed into it.

But, just in the last week, Ive had a glimmer of the protector Freckle-Lexi will be. Yesterday, I heard a quiet, though “business-like,” growl coming from the living room while I was in the back, working. I went to see what was going on, and saw two people standing just outside our hedge, close to the entryway to our door, having a neighbourly conversation. Once I said it was fine, no danger, Freckle-Lexi stopped the growling.

And just today, Freckle-Lexi was in the back patio while I worked just inside with her in view, and she let out a very loud and deep bark at something she heard on the condo complex property. I figures she was either alerting me about a possible intruder, or warning someone not to come any closer.

I have a sense that she’s finally realizing that she’s in her forever home with her forever family and that she’s a full-fledged member of the Wright/Hourston clan now. This makes me really happy, knowing that she’s feeling this relaxed and loved.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Bridget – Precursor to Rescue Boxers

Bridget was our first boxer – a truly wild girl who resisted all attempts to curb her wild enthusiasm and crazy ways. Bridget wasn’t a rescue girl – we bought her at the age of five weeks from a breeder, and brought her home to us at nine weeks (the day after we moved into our condo, which we bought expressly so we wouldn’t be at the mercy of landlords saying “no pets”). You could say our home is a very expensive doghouse.

Bridget began our love affair with boxers and led us to the world of rescue boxers in a round-about way.

Bridget was a difficult dog in all senses of the word – she was flighty to the point of not being able to focus for more than a few seconds on much of anything. She was willful in the extreme. She was so dog aggressive that any and all outings were major stress for all of us. She would go into a rage if she saw or smelled a dog a block away, and on top of all that, she was a walking nightmare in terms of health issues. Our acquaintances and work colleagues would say to us – why keep her, she’s only a dog? – but our friends knew better and knew how much we loved her. She was great with people and in our densely populated neighbourhood, she had many human friends. And she loved, loved, loved children. She would turn inside out at the sight of a baby stroller. And she was a true boxer clown, and would have us in stitches with laughter. And in the house, she was a couch potato (when she wasn’t at the window barking at dogs, cats, squirrels…). When Bridget died, we knew we wanted another boxer (can you say masochist?), but didn’t want to go through puppyhood and adolescence again.

Which leads me to rescue boxers. No matter where we are on the faith or belief continuum, from atheist to devout believer, I think many of us harbour thoughts that things happen or come to us for a reason. Many times, my partner and I have pondered why Bridget came to us. My thoughts on this are that she came to us because we would keep her, no matter what, and to prepare us for a life of adopting rescue boxers after she was gone. I think she came to us to prepare us for the potential difficulties of dealing with a boxer who might have experienced a life of abuse or neglect, who comes with all kinds of baggage that only love and time can heal. Incidentally, Bridget taught us patience, humility, and the value of at least some of the time, living in the moment. And most of all, she taught us to laugh and play – running around and being really goofy is hard for a middle-aged woman to do unless she has a dog or young kids in sight!

And so began our life with rescue boxers. Sassy was our first, and though we had trouble with major separation anxiety with her (more on that in a later post), she was the polar opposite of Bridget – calm (could she really be a boxer?) – and focused and fine with other dogs as long as they didn’t get in her face. She was about four when we adopted her and was with us too few years – just under four. And now we have Freckle-Lexi, with us eight weeks today. We hope she’ll live out a long life with us (we think she’s about three-years-old now). I’ll write about F-L in a future post.

For more about how we ended up with Bridget and ongoing stories about life with our current rescue boxer and her pug sister, check out Freckle and Ceilidh’s blog. The direct link to how we got Bridget .

Monday, January 29, 2007

Don't Judge A Book...

This post is specifically geared toward the potential dog adopter out there.

My advice is simple, and is something that is echoed on the homepage of the BRC site. Don't judge a book by it's cover. I have learned this valuable lesson from experience - twice.

We all have different reasons for wanting a dog. Some might want one because they're cute (especially when they're puppies!). Others because we dream of all the fun we'll have with them...playing catch, wrestling on the grass, playing tug-of-war. Maybe we want to teach the young minds in our home about responsibility. Or, some of us, are just lonely without a dog.

But one thing I believe we are all looking for in our dogs, is a unique relationship. A relationship that is so deep, so intense, so pure that we know we hardly deserve it.

But what if that special relationship was hidden in a dog that was missing a leg? Or an old senior who had developed large tumors that were neglected by a previous owner? Would you turn it down? Would you look that dog in the eye and say 'Sorry Bud. Not good enough."

Well these were questions I had to ask myself at one point.
I remember meeting 'Angus' for the first time. My husband and I were picking him up from the house of a BRC volunteer. We had signed up to be a Foster Home, and he was our first foster.

We walked in, and there he was. I was, in a small way, horrified. He was everything I used to think about Boxers. Homely and mean looking.

He was overweight, he was panting and drooling and his eyes were bugging out of his head (all due to stress). His body was covered in tumors, one was the size of a large orange.

I couldn't believe we had to take this guy home.
Well, our attempt at fostering ended (only for now!) with us keeping this precious animal permanently. He is an amazing dog and I always think back to that initial reaction and how I almost missed out on one of the most deep, intense, and pure relationships of my life.

The photos at the top show Angus when we first brought him home, and now, 10 pounds lighter, no more tumors and a new twinkle in his eye. Doesn't even look like the same dog!

Friday, January 26, 2007

What keeps us doing what we do

This week I've received two separate emails and a comment under the "Adopters" post that have brought tears to my eyes and gratitude to my heart.

Reading the stories that are filled with such love about the adopted boxers and seeing the pictures of the dogs with their people give us such a boost; when the times get tough these updates help all of us who do rescue, remember why we do it and gives us the strength to keep going.

The dogs we place are forever in our hearts - to know that they are well loved and happy, and to hear about the joy they bring to their families is a wonderful blessing.