We lost Tucker* today as he had been slowly deteriorating for the last week. He wouldn’t eat or drink. Tucker had been a starved dog so for him not to eat was a major indicator that something was wrong. Tucker was also vomiting and lethargic. It had become clear that he no longer had any quality of life.

One of the hardest decisions when living with old and sick dogs is deciding when the time is right to let them go.I read another blogger who basically said she would rather let them go too soon then to wait too long and have them be in pain. I believe this is a good approach. Still it is very hard to make the ultimate decision. At our house it is generally a consensus approach. Quite often you can tell by looking their eyes. They seem to have a way of communicating what they need. It is very important that we be open and receptive to their message.

I think we timed this really well for Tucker. His pain meds still seemed to be doing the job and up until yesterday he was eating some food with his usual gusto. When Tucker would not take food and didn’t fight when Deb gave him his pills we could see that a lot of him had gone already. So the decision was made that today would be the day.

Helping a dog to pass is the most important thing we can do for them. Making sure they are not alone and that they are not scared is paramount. Holding their heads and stroking them and making sure that they are not scared is crucial. A lot of us who have rescued dogs try to make up for all the things that particular dog did not have in their lives. We are no exceptions. They are loved, they get treats, they go for walks, they sleep in our bed. We do the very best for them that we possibly can – right up until the end.

Happy trails Tuck. I hope that wherever you are you can eat as much as you want and run like a puppy. We loved you.

Tucker waiting for a treat
Tucker at the dikes having a great time.

*More of Tucker’s story here

Letter to the Swamp Rats (aka k-9s)

Dear Swamp Rats – I am not the pied piper. I will not lead you anywhere. I am only going to the bathroom. Honest. Oh, and FYI, I can do it by myself – I have had a lot of practice but I appreciate your concern. Now, on to some other issues:

1. When I get up to go somewhere in the house it is unnecessary for you to get up and follow me. With at least 5 of you trying to everywhere, we are going nowhere in a hurry. 22 legs makes for a very crowded space and prevents me from actually reaching my destination. Tripping is a real hazard especially when we are moving along and one of you decides to stop. Right in front of me. For no particular reason. Oh and I have news for you all – YOU ARE NOT PSYCHIC!!! Please do not walk in front of me and try to anticipate where I am going to go. All this does is impede my progress and causes me stress!

maddie and the little girls
Madison and the little girls

2. Food – just because I have food does not mean that you have food. Sometimes I would like to be able to enjoy a meal without 20 eyes staring at me, hard. At times I can even hear the faint strains of the music from “Jaws” playing in the background. I do not covet your food and I would appreciate if you reciprocated. Oh and if food is on a PLATE and on a TABLE it is meant for human consumption, not k-9.

concerted turkey begging
Zoe and Gemma involved in serious turkey begging
Tucker waiting for a treat
Tucker waiting for a treat
Clio looking for food from above
Clio waiting for food from above

3. Rain – we all hate the rain. No one likes to get wet first thing in the morning. However, you must still go outside to do your bizness. I will go with you so we can all be miserable together but I will expect that you actually do what you need to do and not run up to the back door and whine to get back in. Come on, I am happy to meet you half-way here. It would also be appreciated if you could do your bizness in a timely manner (Piper). Oh and Piper, I have news for you! You are a dog and not a cow. You need to spend less time grazing and more time peeing!

Piper in motion
Piper in motion!

4. Running into the back of my knees is not a good idea (Kiefer). I have enough difficulty staying upright without you knocking me off my feet! Running into me on the stairs is equally annoying as well – just in case you were wondering.

Kiefer waiting for a treat

5. Madison – it would be great if you stopped trying to kill me. You have been at it for about 10 years and it is getting old. Standing up as I try to step over you does not bode well for my personal safety. What you don’t know (or maybe you don’t care) is the main reason you came to live with us is because I pursued your adoption with ARF. We know that you would have rather been an only dog but that was not your luck.

6. Zoe and Gemma – what is it about dogs from the North? We are all for formerly abused dogs becoming self-actualized but you two take it too far. Is it necessary to lay on the table in the dining room. I must admit you look very cute there but I have to say that it is probably not a good idea. Especially given that your main reason for being up there is a more comfortable view to look out the window and bark.

Zoe on the table
Zoe chilin' on the table

That is all I can think of right now. However, I do reserve the right to add to this list as time goes on!

Resilience in Rescued Dogs

As many of you know we are quite involved in dog rescue. Currently of our 9 dogs, 8 are rescued or former shelter dogs. One of the things I enjoy most about having rescued dogs is watching them as they grow and change and discover that they are safe. Most dogs when they come to us are coming via a rescue. Most of our dogs have come from SAINTS and Turtle Gardens but we also have dogs from shelters too. One of the things most of our rescued dogs have in common is that they have been neglected (some were abused), many have been starved and several of them lived outside. All of these issues impacts the dog as he or she tries to integrate into our family.

A dog who has spent its entire life living outside never learns to hold their bladder. When these dogs first come in it can be very difficult to toilet train them. In some cases, it is more difficult than puppies. These dogs require a great deal of structure and patience to learn to hold their bladders. We find frequent trips outside and the liberal (or would that be ‘liveral’) application of dried liver treats to be very helpful. We also find that crating them at night helps them to learn to hold their bladders which then translates into them being able to hold it for longer and longer periods in the day. We also lean towards supervising them outside and teaching them to pee on command. Of course there will continue to be accidents and these are handled with patience. If we find the dog in ‘the act’ we will generally take them outside to finish the job. Some dogs will never be toilet trained and may require some other kind of incontinence products.

Dogs who have been starved can be especially difficult particularly when it comes to resource guarding. Quite often these dogs never know where there next meal is going to come from and so they can act aggressively with food and treats. It takes a long time to teach them to take the treats nicely. One must also safeguard the other dogs against the aggressiveness of the resource guarding. We try to minimize this kind of aggression by ensuring that there is no food or treats readily available. We feed raw so everyone gets their portions and the resource guarders are separated from the others. Generally this works well but it does require vigilance.

Dogs who have been neglected often do not associate humans with anything good. It takes them a while to begin to trust us and rely on us to provide a comfortable life for them. Once these dogs do begin to attach you can expect that they will have a touch deficit and need a lot of attention. In fact, the revel in the love! As they get more and more attention their confidence soars and they begin to experience positive feelings.

This post has been prompted by something Zoe did yesterday which indicates some of these qualities/behaviours. Deb dropped a package of melba toast in the living room and all of a sudden it was gone. I was down the hall and I saw Zoe strutting down the hall with something in her mouth. Her tail was up and she looked very pleased with herself. Zoe was a starved dog at some point in her life. Right now she is in the touch deficit phase of her recovery. Zoe is also a very resilient dog. She has overcome so much in a very quick time period. She is able to trust us and she is no longer starved. However, she still behaves like a starved dog. Likely she always will. Tucker was also a starved dog and he will literally dive for any food anywhere, any time. It does not matter what it is he will eat it with gusto. Giving him treats is quite difficult because he snaps at your hand. Tucker can be quite dangerous to humans and other dogs when it comes to food.

Adopting a rescued dog can be quite difficult. It does require commitment, a whole lot patience and hopefully wood floors! However the rewards are many and varied. Watching them grow and change is a fulfilling experience. Not all rescued dogs are capable of this resilience. If you are going to welcome a rescued dog into your life it is important not to have any great expectations. The ability of the dog to adapt depends on many things. Length of time the dog has lived in less than ideal circumstances, age, breed, and health status are all factors that can have an impact. Having no pre-set expectations of the dog’s ability to meet your needs will give the dog the space he or she needs to reach their potential.


Ha, ha, ha – Snow on April 1

Well, sadly, it is not an April fool’s joke – it is for real: we have snow this morning!!!

Now that I am mostly over the plague, I will be back to blogging next week when I am on holidays! The Our Green Year people have been very busy…

One other good note: Tucker is much improved. Expect a full update soon!

The Tucker Man

Photo courtesy of Big Air Photography
Photo courtesy of Big Air Photography

This is Tucker, our foster dog from SAINTS. Tucker came to us a while a go (I can’t remember when now). He spent the first 15 years of his life in a pen. Now he is making up for it. We often affectionately call him a ‘knob’ because he is always where you are trying to get to. Tucker has missed out on so much he is making damned sure he does not miss anything now. He wants affection and love, he likes to romp outside with the canine family and he loves food. For a dog who spent so long in a pen he has quickly developed some ‘skills.’ He was opening the freezer for a while and helping him self to the all you can eat buffet. The freezer door is now held close with a bungee cord (thank you Lynn). He can get bowls down off the counter without spilling the contents or breaking the bowl. We figure if he can get it, he can have it (unless it would be dangerous for him).

A couple of days ago Tucker developed vestibular disease. This disease is relatively easy to see as the head is tilted, the eyes are darting and the dog vomits. Basically, as Carol says, “he feels like he is on a merry go round and can’t get off.” Tucker went up to the vet and got some anti-nausea meds. He may also have had a stroke brought on by the vestibular disease.

We set him up in an X-pen with comfy beds and blankets. Piper the pug, who is quite bonded to him, has kept him company for a while here and there. He seemed to like that. He has been steadily improving. His head is still tilted but he is walking better and not vomitting.

So this morning I was busy doing my normal morning things when I hear someone scrambling on the laminate. I rounded the corner and there was Tucker coming down the hallway. He had broken out of his X-pen and he wanted to go out. So out we went.

What a guy! I am sure we will have our Tucker back very soon.

This and that….

Well it has been a busy time. I am off work until January 5 and I am so grateful. I needed a break. I was stupid and ate nuts over the holidays and I am now paying…colitis and nuts are a bad combination.

In other news – all of the dogs are doing ok. We think Tucker may have a bladder infection so he is off to the vet tomorrow. They all enjoyed their turkey very much. We got a hormone and antibiotic free turkey from Hopcott’s and it was fabulous! The rest of the dinner was to die for as well. We had cauliflower and cheese sauce, potatoes, and all sorts of other veggies that I ignored.

I am getting a little sick of the pope. Who is he to judge trans and homosexual people when he wears a dress and has other men kiss his hand? He is so completely outdated and the catholic church will lose support because of this kind of bigotry. We need to move towards a society that celebrates diversity rather than one that puts of with condemnations of minority groups.

The weather has also been a little frightful. I cannot remember ever seeing this much snow on the wet coast. We went out on Saturday and there were mountains of snow piled up in the parking lots. I know that for other areas of Canada this is normal but for here it is freaky!

Oh and the freaking neighbour’s dog is making me mental. They leave him outside for 12-14 hours at a time and he barks non-stop at our dogs when they go out. Ours are pretty good they don’t bark back as they know they just get brought in. I do not understand how the hell they can stand to listen to their dog barking his foolish head off for a whole day? What is wrong with people? It is so unfair to our dogs as they can’t be outside for any length of time because he won’t stop barking. The last thing we need is for other neighbours to think it is one of our dogs doing all the barking.

Old Dogs

Never, ever underestimate an old dog. Tucker has found the all you can eat buffet of our house known as the freezer. He has learned to open it and can be found munching on all sorts of  things – lately it was a frozen Angus burger from Costco.

Tucker spent 15 years in a pen – by himself. He is desperate for attention and interaction. He never wants to be away from humans. Tucker is also losing his back end. He is having trouble getting up and occasionally drops poop as he walks. Not good signs. However, we have decided to let Tucker be the boss and do as much living as he can in what time he has left. He can go to the park and run like a puppy and we will manage his pain with appropriate medications. He is having a really good time!

The Inmates Have Taken Over the Asylum: The Geriatric Club

A senior dog is loosely defined as being over the age of 7. If we were to apply that definition we would have 6 dogs who fit in that category. Although to see some of them in action you would have no idea!

The oldest dog in the house is Molly, who is 19, had an entire blog post dedicated to her and her antics. She has had several strokes and kind of does everything to the right. She is a force to be reckoned with and most of the other dogs are afraid of her.

My favourite pic of Mabel. It captures her confidence!
My favourite pic of Mabel. It captures her confidence!

The next oldest dog is Mabel at 17. She has also been the subject of several blog posts: here, here, and here. Mabel continues to do quite well. She is our little despot. She still sleeps most of the time in the laundry room – entirely her choice. She has many beds to choose from and she does rotate through them all. Lately we have had to evict her from the laundry room for short periods of time so that Tucker can eat there and she gets seriously pissed off. She will immediately voice her displeasure and go and pee on the floor even if she has just been outside. She continues to bark to go out, come in and eat. Her daily ‘constitutionals’ around the yard are back and she can successfully find her way back to the door. What is really funny is that Mabel doesn’t know when the door is open. Sometimes we don’t close it and sure enough, when she is ready to come in she will bark in front of the open door. Mabel is a little deaf, a little blind and a whole lot stubborn!

Madison with Molly and Clio
Madison with Molly and Clio

Madison is our next oldest dog and she is 15. We adopted her from the Animal Rescue Foundation about 10 years ago. Madison often takes the role of mother to the little dogs no matter how old. She can often be seen cleaning them especially the pug. Madison has much in common with Eeyore. She is sure that no one loves her and everyone hates her. She greets new visitors with the hope that maybe, just maybe, they will really love her! Madison is a loved and cherished member of our family. Unfortunately some dogs are never able to overcome their pasts. Madison went through several homes in her first five years of life. She became somewhat aggressive after being tormented by a 12 year old boy. We were the perfect family for Madison because there were no men in our household. Over the years, Madison has mostly been desensitized to men and can enjoy their company. Young boys are still problematic – she is unpredictable and can be aggressive. Luckily she has never bitten a child and we are highly vigilant. Many people (see here and here) feel it is just fine to re-home a dog and that it really does not affect them. For many dogs, instability in their ‘pack’ cause irreparable damage that the dog may never overcome.

Laughing Tucker
Laughing Tucker

Tucker is a foster dog from SAINTS. He is 15 years old and spent almost all of his life in a pen. He is a very good dog. There are serious consequences for a dog who spends his entire life, by himself, in a pen. He was never socialized with other dogs. For him this means that he has never learned how to be with other dogs or what it means to be a dog. He is now slowly learning, at 15, how to interact with other members of canine society. He is realizing that humping everyone is not the best strategy. He never learned to hold his bladder. If you live in a pen rather than a house toilet training is not a priority. It means that Tucker is incontinent. He may have been incontinent at 15 anyway but we will never know. Tucker has an incredible need to be touched and loved. After 15 years there are not enough people or enough hours in enough days to make up for what he has lost. It is very sad. This insatiable need for affection contributes to Tucker’s anxiety. He is always concerned that he is going to miss something and he is always on alert. Tucker is also mostly deaf. As a result he devises strategies to know if the humans he has now fallen in love with move. He will lie so that he is touching my chair so that I cannot possibly get up without him knowing. Another consequence (and one that is simultaneously amusing and disgusting) of his lack of socialization is that Tucker never really came into contact with female dogs. Enter our little hussy, Piper the pug. On several occasions now I have seen Piper laid out, on her back, like Miss September and Tucker enthusiastically ‘cleaning’ her. That is all I will say on the subject.


Kirby is our next oldest dog. He is 10 and he also came from ARF. Kirby was painfully shy when he came to us as a foster dog. He had this unique ability to blend in with his surroundings and stay perfectly still making it very difficult to find him. Although, who, in their right minds, takes a brand new dog to the park and lets him offleash? Well, we did. It was dumb. It took us a long time to find him that first day and he was right by us. Kirby was so timid he was almost euthanized at the vet’s office where he was dumped. He was saved by a very eager and talented vet student who had done his neuter. She could not handle the fact that he was about to be put down and she contacted ARF. It was clear immediately, to Deb anyway, that he was not going anywhere once he had arrived. Almost 10 years later and he is a treasured member of our family.

Mackenzie smiling.
Mackenzie smiling.

Mackenzie is about 8 years old and she has lived with us for all but about 4 months of her life. She started her life being tied up in a yard and left to the elements and the loud noises. This has affected her greatly. She is very scared by thunder storms and fireworks have made her seizure from anxiety. She was also kicked to maker her aggressive and into a watch dog. They succeeded on the aggressive part for sure. She was human aggressive when we got her and has remained dog aggressive. Mackenzie has been the focus of a great deal of soul searching and agonizing about quality of life. She lives in a multi-dog household and this means that she must be separated from everyone else as her aggression, while predictable, is severe. Mackenzie spends a lot of her time in Deb’s office. She gets lots of exercise and for the most part seems to have a good quality of life.

What is clear from our seniors is that there are real and palpable consequences to how dogs are treated. Dogs who spend their lives on the ends of ropes or chains outside become fearful and unpredictable. Dogs are pack animals and need to be with their people. They are social animals who need to learn to the cues from both other dogs and humans if they are to navigate their way in society successfully. Having the pleasure of having a dog in your life comes with serious responsibility. Dogs can be expected to live between 10 and 20 years and if you are getting a dog you need to be aware. Dogs require good quality food and regular vet care. Please if you are thinking of getting a dog make sure that you do your research into breed characteristics and learn something about training. Many dogs lose their homes because their people did not research the breed adequately. If you get a Border Collie you need to know that have to work or they will become destructive. Pugs were bred to be companion dogs – they need to be with their people. Northern breeds have high prey drive. While not all dogs of all breeds will display all of the breed characteristics it is good to at least be aware of the potential. One last request, if you are thinking of getting a dog please check out your local shelters, rescues and pounds. Please don’t support a puppy mill.

Edited to add: I just saw this post from Turtle Gardens with some more discussion about consequences for dogs brought on by human failures. Excellent post.

Tucker went to the vet yesterday…

Tucker laying on a comfy bed
Tucker laying on a comfy bed

It was a pretty new adventure for Mr. Tucker who has spent most of his 15 years of life in a pen. He must have been at least once as he is neutered. He handled it like a trooper! Dr. David Loff is perhaps the kindest and most gentle vet I have ever met. He handles the rescue dogs so kindly and respectfully. Tucker’s ears were dirty. We knew this and we had been trying to clean them but we didn’t do it right. Dr. Loff squirted some ear cleaning solution into his hear and proceeded to rub around his ear canals with gauze pulling out all the gunk. Tucker started making noise…we thought it was a growl at first but Dr. Loff clarified that it was actually a groan and likely meant a ‘little to the left please.’ I almost cried. Tucker was so clearly enjoying something that most other dogs hate. Likely he has never had his ears cleaned before and there was 15 years of gunk built up in them along with a yeast infection.

Tucker also has arthritis in his hips and so he was started on cartrophen injections, he will get one a week for 4 weeks and he is on metacam to try and reduce the amount inflammation and pain in his hips. He also has a bladder infection so we are off to pick up medication for that and it may (or may not) help with his incontinence problems.

All in all, for a 15 year old dog Tuck is in pretty good shape. Tucker is a SAINT and he is up for adoption. He is a great dog and deserves a home of his own. In the meantime he will be fostered at chez Thomas. Adopting a senior dog will change your life.

Laughing Tucker
Laughing Tucker
Tucker looking kind of regal
Tucker looking kind of regal

Why People Suck…

So, we had a huge thunder and lightening storm last night. Mackenzie, one of our dogs, is deathly afraid of loud noises, espeically thunder and fireworks. She once had a seizure she was so afraid. After that happened we got her some acevet which is a tranquilizer. It works fairly well as long as you get it into her quickly enough. Well last night the storm started at around 3 am and she was already too upset. Deb gave her 2 acevet anyway and put a tight t-shirt on her. Tight t-shirts help afraid dogs feel more secure. You might wonder why she is like this and this is where the title comes in. Kenzie was left outside, on a rope, with a prong digging into her neck for the first 4 months of her life. She was outside for the storms, the fireworks and whatever else went on. She was kicked to make her aggressive. While she has come a long way we do think there is something wrong with her brain. She is very aggressive towards new dogs. We used to think it was something that happened when she snapped except now she is starting to go out of her way to nail dogs. She has to be kept separate from other dogs for everyone’s safety.

The other reason people suck is that they starve dogs. Kenzie was definitely starved. Tucker has also been starved – he is quite skinny and is always looking for food. Clio was also starved as was Mabel. A starved dog never forgets what it was like to be hungry. They are always looking for food. It is a fine balance to make sure they get what they need to eat without making themselves sick. Meals are scheduled here and there are lots and lots of treats the rest of the time.

One thing we guarantee every dog who comes here – they will never again know hunger, abuse or lonliness. They will have a soft bed to sleep on and they will be well looked after. We ask for nor needing anything from them.