Princess Zoesephine

It is amazing to witness the capacity of dogs to overcome their difficult circumstances once they come into rescue. For the most part, dogs are very resilient animals. However, some dogs no matter how long they are in rescue they just never recover to any great degree. This post is not about a dog like this. Instead I am going to profile our Zoe who has managed to change so profoundly from the day she arrived.

Zoe arrived in September of 2009. A former puppy mill breeding female from northern BC, she had been rescued by Turtle Gardens. When Zoe arrived she was a mess. She was not toilet-trained and really had no interest in going outside. In the early days she would come into the living room and pee on the floor right in front of us. We eventually solved the toilet training problem through food. Zoe is highly food motivated so getting treats when she actually goes outside has been very effective.

Zoe has gone far beyond just learning to do her business outside. She has truly become the master of her own universe… and us. Here are some highlights of how self-actualized Zoe has become:

  • As I pointed out in this post, Zoe always wants what I am eating. It does not matter if she likes it. The other day she was clawing at my leg[1] for a piece of my pancake. I doubted she wanted it but I gave in anyway. I offered her a piece and it hit the floor and she walked away from it. She went to the other side of my chair and repeated. Now I had 2 pieces of pancake on the floor.
  • Zoe hates to get her feet wet. In the rain,[2] it takes minutes some days to get her to off the step and pee. Wash, rinse, repeat 5 times a day!
  • If Zoe is somewhere she doesn’t want to be she can bark incessantly. We separate the dogs to eat. Zoe tends to eat in Deb’s office as she will take other dog’s food. As soon as she thinks she is done[3] she begins to bark. She will continue to bark until someone gets up and lets her out. Most of the time when we go to let her out she tries to leave with whatever food she hasn’t eaten yet. It’s not that she wants to eat it; she wants to prevent others from eating it. What this sets up is a growl and snarl fest wherever Zoe decides to take her food.
  • Closely related to the above, Zoe has no bite inhibition. Trying to get food from her means literally putting your intact skin into jeopardy.[4]

Zoe has become our little princess. This is typical of the breed – they really take their royal origins seriously. She has a pillow on her bed or she stretches out on the Newfoundland’s bed. I saw her there this morning snoozing on her back in the middle of the giant bed. She cracks me up in the morning as she races down the stairs with her tail going in circles and her back legs flying out behind her. It is really a surprise to see her do this as she is at least 12 years old.

We adore this dog. She has recently been diagnosed with pulmonary issues and will need to be on Lasix for the rest of her life. We now have to get through a blood test and a dental. The thought of losing this amazing little dog is absolutely heartbreaking and we are not ready yet. Last week gave us a big scare!


[1] Which really, really hurts.

[2] And let’s face it, it rains a lot here.

[3] She may be done but really she thinks she might be missing better food some place else.

[4] We believe Zoe was a starved dog when she was having puppies. She has all the hallmarks.

Innovation from The Swamp – the ‘Zoe Diet™’

We have the next new greatest diet plan ever living here at The Swamp! Zoe is our secret weapon. I think if we could market her to normal people we would make a small fortune. Here is why: whenever I eat something she claws my legs and barks at me non-stop until I give her what I am eating. She usually will allot me 5 minutes before she starts her tirade.

Do I look capable of being a tyrant?

If I am eating in the living room she starts by popping up on her back legs and clawing at my chair. This invariably annoys me quickly because we have leather furniture. Then she barks. About every 10 seconds she will let out one bark.[1]

When that fails[2] she will jump up on my footrest and paw my stomach.[3] When that fails to work to her satisfaction[4] she will launch onto my chest. This means that all 20 pounds of her lands on my lungs with her face right in my face.[5] Then I put her down and we start over again, wash, rinse, repeat.

Yesterday I was eating breakfast at my desk. Zoe detected that I could possibly be eating and came into my office. She started clawing at my lower leg.[6] She then stretched up on her back legs and clawed my chair and started barking. I ignored her for a while as I tried to enjoy my eggs and tater tots. Shihtzus are knows for their tenacity and Zoe has that in spades. Finally, I give in and give her a piece of egg. She sniffs it and turns her head away. She doesn’t even like eggs! Then I gave her a tater tot. She didn’t want that either. I thought I was free now that she knew I wasn’t interested I thought I would be permitted to finish my meal in peace and quiet. Huh, was I ever wrong.

It's all lies. Here I am patiently waiting for my turn.

Here is the thing I have learned about living with Zoe: she always gets her way. It does not matter what we do to try to change a behavior we always lose. If I were to put her out of the room while I ate[7] she would create such a raucous noise that there would be no peace for anyone in the house. One time I thought I was going to outsmart her when she was up on my footrest clawing at my stomach for my food. I decided I would suddenly lower the footrest so she landed on the floor. I did it once, I did it a second time and the third time, instead of landing on the floor she launched on my head. I lost.

I need a rest after driving my humans to distraction.

Such is life with a Shihtzu. They are crafty and tenacious. Zoe is a prime example of a self-actualized Shihtzu. She has come a long way from her former puppy mill life. Thanks again to Turtle Gardens for rescuing our little despot. Yvette’s dreams of her becoming a ‘yuppy puppy’ have long been achieved.

So does anyone want to try the Zoe Diet™?

[1] I have actually become very good at ignoring her barking. It fades to background noise for a while anyway.

[2] Which in her little mind means she has not been fed fast enough.

[3] I then tell her: “Zoe, don’t do that it! It hurts mommy.” But she is an evil, Machiavellian dictator and she does not care. For her the ends definitely justify the means!

[4] See footnote 2.

[5] Sometimes I think she wants to take the food right out of my mouth.

[6] I am dreading capri season!

[7] I’d probably gain weight.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘I hate daylight savings time’ edition

  • I really don’t understand why we are still doing this whole daylight savings time thing. When it was first introduced in 1895 and really took hold during World War I. The idea was to save electricity by reducing the use of incandescent bulbs to light evening activities. Surely this is no longer necessary now. Plus since George Bush had the bright idea[1] to stretch out the amount of time we spend in DST, it now starts earlier and ends later. I hate it. It messes with my routine.
  • I had the last of my sedation dental work done on Thursday. This time I seemed to remember way less of that day than before. It also took much longer for me to shed the effects of the medication. I wonder if the medication becomes more effective each time you use it. Anyway, I get the last of my new crowns on Friday. Yippy for me!
  • I have to say that the longer I live with Zoe the more impressed I have become at how she gets her own way by making your life so freaking miserable that you can’t even consider not giving in to her. Case in point – last night we had pizza. Zoe barked and scratched at my chair and me for a good 40 minutes. Finally I gave her some. Then one of the pieces I gave her went under the chair and she would not rest until she got it. She tormented me by almost upsetting my laptop until I got up and flipped the chair up so she could get her damn pizza! There is no hope of ever training this dog. The only reason she will humour us and pee outside is because she gets a treat when she is done. She tries to play us with this as well by going out on the step and coming back in without doing anything. I think we have convinced her that we are all pretty stupid.
  • We have been involved in transporting Miss Pickles between Chilliwack animal control and her foster home in Vancouver. As a surprise, Pickles’ foster mother made some liver cakes for the dogs! Nummy! They really enjoyed them. Here are some pictures of the layered liver cake!
L is for liver. A is for apple. T is for Tru! Tru got her very own cake.

[1] No pun intended.

Happy Gotcha Day Zoe!!!

Zoe looking cute.

It was one year ago that Zoe came to us via Turtle Gardens. When she came all we knew about her was that she was an old dog who spent a lot of time on the shelf. She didn’t like to walk much or go outside.

Zoe in a green harness - one of the rare times she has something on!

In the last year she has grown and changed so much. She has enjoyed family life and getting to know her new pack. She loves to eat and play. She plays with Sawyer like crazy. Her colour has changed from almost white to a bit of apricot and black here and there. She is an awesome dog who has wormed her way into our hearts! We love you Zoe ‘n Zoe!

Zoe waiting for some food!

Starved White

We see many things in rescue. The neglect and abuse that some people inflict on animals is horrific. There are many things that I can not deal with. I know they happen but I choose not to hear about it or read about it. I can’t handle it. I can handle the animals after the fact. I can feed and love them. I can help them learn to trust people. Under our care they learn how to be dogs. They are rarely made to do anything they don’t want to do. We feed human-grade raw food mostly and they get veterinary care. We really only have 3 rules: no aggression is allowed*, the humans are the alphas** and they must wait their turn for treats***.

I was chatting with Yvette from Turtle Gardens one day about a phenomenon she sees in northern BC. The dogs are so starved their bodies cannot produce the pigment required to give them colour. Think about this for a moment. They literally become white dogs because of lack of nutrition. I cannot fathom how this can happen.

We are now seeing it with our lovely Zoe. Zoe is a Shihtzu. The breed is known for being multi-coloured. Most Shihtzus**** are black or brown with white. Zoe is white. She had a little bit of grey on her ears and some staining on her legs but that was it for colour. Something is happening now. Her tail had a little abscess on it and the area was shaved. The hair is now coming in black. When she had the abscess on her head, that area was shaved so that the vet could drain the fluid on her head. That hair is now coming in black as well. I know that these are only 2 spots so I am not getting too excited. I do think it is significant.

It would seem that we have not yet met the real Zoe. It seems like she is still growing and morphing into a different dog. She has changed so much since she got here. She has gone from being a dog who lived on a shelf, who did not want to walk to a dog that is completely engaged in her world and loves to play. All of this makes me love our little Zoe ‘n Zoe even more.

*Any aggression is met with everyone in the vicinity yelling something like ‘hey’ or ‘what the fuck’ very, very loudly. It has been known to make guests jump out of their seats.

**Dogs need a leader. Without a leader dogs become anxious and unsettled which, in our case, puts the pack on edge. Aggression and fear increases and the dogs are not very happy.

***As part of the alpha and leadership philosophy, dogs must wait their turns for treats. Most often we will try to give treats in some kind of order. Sometimes length of time they have lived with us or age or in a row. The point is that they learn they are part of a family and they must wait their turn.

****Or Shihtheads as we like to call them.

Great people, great evening

We had friends over for dinner tonight. It was one of the best evenings we have had in a  very long time. Great discussion and common points of interest. We got to meet 2 new fabulous dogs: Duff and Pharoah. Duff has the best underbite ever! I am a sucker for an underbite! Pharoah is a Saluki, rescued by Turtle Gardens. She is extremely shy and she had a breakthrough here tonight. She let all of us pet her as the evening progressed. It is an incredible honour and gift when a dog like Pharoah lets you pet her. TG and Stan have worked so well with her! Great evening!

Dispatches from the Swamp

First thing: I love Billy the Exterminator! If you are not watching this show I highly recommend it! I love his attitude towards his job. He never wants to kill anything unless there is no choice. Plus if he has to kill things he tries to use non-toxic stuff to do it. He live traps and releases most of the animals he has to deal with rather than killing them this includes snakes, raccoons and alligators.
Second thing: I finally got the Logitech remote set up. The manual said it would take 30 minutes. It was more like 8 hours! My setup included following the instructions step-by-step and getting on to a help forum when some things would not work. Plus I put in a tech support request to Logitech on Thursday and I still have not heard from them. The good thing is that Deb can now watch what she wants with generally clicking one button.
Third thing: our house is large with angles and hallways and a second floor. It is hard for the wireless network to reach everywhere especially given the fact that the router lives in my office which is at one end rather than in the middle. After doing some research I decided to get an Airport Express to extend the network into the living room and upstairs. I had a little glitch setting it up as the computer had trouble picking it up. I got it on the second try. Hopefully we will have strong internet throughout the house now.
Fourth thing: today the Turtle Gardens bus arrived with 8 dogs going to new homes! Stan and Yvette travelled through the night and arrived here around 10 am. The adoptive families came here and picked up their new additions. Congratulations to the dogs and families!
Fifth thing: our house is so different without Gemma in it. Living with dogs who have to be separated for safety reasons creates stress for the dogs and the humans. 
Invariably someone is always where they don’t want to be – they think the grass is greener on the other side of the gate. There is lots of barking which stresses the dogs and the humans. Since Gemma has been gone everything has been quiet, very quiet. We now have a group of dogs who, for the most part, get along with each other. There are a few intolerances like Molly does not want to share the same air space with Sawyer and Sawyer kind of gets on Kiefer and Madison’s nerves. Mostly what we are dealing with though is just puppy/teenager behaviour which, bothers the older ones.
Sixth thing: my Mother has now gone 11 days without a cigarette! Yay Mom! If anyone knows of any great inspirational websites please send me links! I am getting desperate here.
That’s it for today catch you all on the flip side!

Rescue Politics

Anyone who is involved in dog rescue in BC knows it is a viper-pit. There is much good work that is done but much energy is sapped within this atmosphere. There is very little room for error. If you happen to make an error, even if you admit it and try to fix it, the rescue community here will eat you alive. Rescue boards require moderators to enforce very strict rules on conduct. After several years, I have learned to stay away from these conflicts. I rarely read any of the boards as it is the same arguments over and over.

The strategy of staying away from the boards has worked well for me. As we* have become more involved with supporting Turtle Gardens. In the rescue community those who have grievances will come at anyone associated with that particular rescue. True to form I have been contacted by someone with a grievance to air.  I believe in open and transparent communication. I then told Stan that I had received this email. After reading it Stan asked if he could post it on the TG blog. I said yes. I felt it was also important to advise the woman who sent it the decision I made to pass it on to TG.

Rumours and innuendo only have power if they are kept secret. Once the information becomes public and the rescue has a chance to address the issues the rumours stop and the rescue can defend itself. The big issue here is the fact that TG forgot to spay one dog. Once the error was found TG took care of it. Instead of letting it go she decided to dig through the blogs looking for any inconsistency she could find. While all this was going on, Yvette was barely out of the hospital where her very survival was in question.

TG is a rescue that re-homes in excess of 200 dogs a year from remote sites in the north. Most rescues don’t even come close to that number in 5 years. The Labatte family does most of the work for the rescue and at the center of the hub is Yvette.  She does all of the administration which includes: screening homes, arranging for home checks (all done by volunteers in southern BC)**, booking vet appointments, issuing tax receipts, writing blogs, managing dog behaviour, fundraising, juggling money to ensure all bills are paid, fielding calls from people who want to surrender their dogs to TG, helping new adoptive families with their dogs, doing public education and keeping track of everything that happens. She does this for over 200 dogs per year! She is not paid. She is also living with a very debilitating disease that compromises the amount of oxygen she is able to get to her body.

It would be nice, if for once instead of bashing a rescue people would instead ask what they could do to help. After all we all want to help animals. Trying to tear down a successful rescue only hurts the animals. Dogs need all the help they can get given the circumstances, into which, some of them are born.

*we= Deb and me.

** Most TG dogs are adopted to families in southern BC and Vancouver Island.

Turtle Gardens Raffle Fundraiser

Turtle Gardens is an awesome organization in Northern BC. TG covers a huge area of northern BC and they are the only rescue. Approximately 250 dogs are adopted per year from Turtle Gardens. If you can help out with the raffle please see the information below. Thank you!

Hello everyone,

Didn’t Win the Grand Prize to Puerto Vallarta in 2008?Well you have another chance this summer. has generously donated a Fabulous 7 day Vacation to a Four-Star all inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta.
Thank you Chris and Tomoko for your generous support.

This vacation will be the exciting “GRAND” prize of our upcoming raffle.

We know we’ll be able to make this fundraiser a success – our goal is to beat the total of $15,000 we raised two years ago.

Jude and I are in the early stages of organizing this fundraiser.
We’ve started to accumulate some goodies already:

– $200 in Gas cards
– $100 in Starbuck cards
– $200 of Avon products
– $50 Canadian Tire card
– Kitty bag – treats, toys etc

This is just the beginning….

Are you able to donate a prize to the raffle? Keep in mind this is a province wide event. We would like to keep the prizes lightweight and easy to mail.  Are you able to approach any local businesses in your area for a donation?

There was a lot of interest in the gas cards.
We would love to have a $500 gas giveaway.

Donation receipts for income tax purposes can be provided.

If you would like to Print out a Donations Request letter,
Click HERE

If you do not have a printer, please send us an email at and Iwe’ll be more than happy to supply some copies.

Remember, any amount, small or large will be greatly appreciated.

Donations will be accepted until May 1st.

Let’s help Yvette and the dogs of Turtle Gardens.
We can do this with everyone’s support.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Cynda and Jude

PS  Please please forward this email to your friends and co-workers!  Thanks so much.


Turtle Gardens

The Shelter Challenge is on again until April 18, 2010. Turtle Gardens is in 4th place. We are trying to get as many people as possible to vote for Turtle Gardens every day! Turtle Gardens is a rescue in Northern BC. There are no other agencies that care for dogs up there except for TG. Turtle Gardens adopts out over 200 dogs a year mostly to homes in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. They have very little formal funding and in fact, lost their gaming grant for 2009. If you love dogs and other animals, please consider voting for Turtle Gardens everyday. Click here to vote.