T. Rex and the Dinosaurs

Back in mid-October, when I was house-sitting for Mona during a family emergency, Emily and I rescued three pups from a not so great situation.  The old lady was trying, but she was battling early-stage dementia and dealing with her own mother’s pending death, and the grandson who was supposed to be caring for the pups was “throwing out scraps every now & then.”  She called Emily and begged for our intervention… and we intervened.

Dad was a stunning black Lab; mom was a scrawny GSD/Chow mix.  She was not even a year old and far too young to have given birth.  One of the pups had a short, thick coat of glossy black fur, just like dad.  The other two (who were identical) had long black coats.  All three had a Chow-like face and sloped forehead – if the one hadn’t had such short hair, they’d have all three been identical.

At that time, Emily had a houseful of fosters.  So did I, but Emily tends to have very large litters whereas (with three exceptions) I take in singles or three or four littermates.  I took the pups home.  My teenagers insisted that we name one of the long-haired pups Reptar – I named the other long-haired pup Godzilla, and the short-haired one T. Rex.

It didn’t take very long at all for us to realize that, while Reptar and Godzilla were the sweetest, gentlest souls you could ever hope to meet, T. Rex deserved his name.  Very much.  He was dominant-aggressive to his siblings, who lived in utter fear of him.  Though only ten weeks old, he had already challenged me before the first nightfall.

I was extremely uneasy about T. Rex.  I have seen dominant dogs, but I have not seen all that many who are willing to challenge a human… and I’d NEVER seen such dominance in a puppy.  I put my uneasiness aside and separated the brothers – Reptar and Godzilla stayed at the back of the property with my mom’s frou-frous, and T. Rex went up front with my dogs.  I knew that Max, my alpha male, an Akita mix, would keep T. Rex in line.

Max is the least aggressive dog I know, but he’s the alpha male, and he keeps his pack in line.  People tell me I’m mistaken to let him be the pack leader.  I disagree.  He is the pack-leader among the dogs… but make no mistake, he is extremely submissive to me, hubby, and all three kids.  If Max fights with another adult male (which is why Biscuit is in a solitary pen, but that’s another story), all I have to do is say in a firm voice, “Max.  No,” and he stops.  I don’t have to shout; I have never struck him.  He recognizes my authority and accepts it.  Read about  how Max came to live with us at https://heathermcamp.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/max-or-we-needed-another-dog-like-we-needed-a-hole-in-the-head/

Back to the Dinosaurs.  Like I said, Reptar and Godzilla were great puppies.  They got along well with everyone – dog, cat, or goat.  (Note regarding the photos – my mom put a pink collar on Reptar so she could tell them apart.)Image



In the meantime, T. Rex made a nuisance of himself at every turn.  He was constantly picking fights, and Max was constantly taking him down a peg.  Even Nanuq had to put him in his place a few times… and Nanuq has no social aspirations!

The day came to take the Dinosaurs for their health certificates.  Companion animals cannot be transported across state lines without a health certificate from a licensed veterinarian.  We have to get health certs on our pups prior to putting them on the North Shore Animal League transport van.  Read more about Operation Puppy Love at https://heathermcamp.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/operation-puppy-love/

I leashed all three puppies and headed out the door.  We got into the yard and T. Rex immediately attacked his brothers.  I didn’t put my hand into the fray; I used leashes to separate them… T. Rex whirled and attacked the leash and, leaping up, snagged my fingertip with one of those needle-sharp puppy teeth and tore it to the bone.  I swore and slung all the leashes at my husband and rushed into the house to bandage my finger.

By the time I got to the vet’s office, my bandage was saturated and, unbeknownst to me, blood was running from my finger, down my arm, and dripping from my elbow to the floor.  The vet tech said, “Oh my God, you’re bleeding!  What happened?”

I was shocked and answered honestly, “T. Rex bit me.”

The vet tech took me into the back and made me scrub the finger with a Betadyne solution they keep on hand for just such situations as this.  The staff is accustomed to bites.  The tech said, “You need stitches.”

I said, “All things heal with time,” and it did, without stitches, though it took several weeks.

Keep in mind that the pups were only around twelve weeks old at this juncture, far too young yet for a rabies vaccine.  Because of this our vet only wrote a health certificate for Reptar and Godzilla.  She ordered me to keep T. Rex quarantined for ten days.

“You know and I know that he doesn’t have rabies,” she told me, “but I know a vet who was wrong about that once, and I don’t want to make that mistake.”

The next morning, Emily and Mona came to pick up Reptar and Godzilla – I don’t always ride to Martinsville for the transport.  I was sorry to see them go, but glad at the same time, because T. Rex was a thorn in my side, a pain in my arse, a trial and a real cross to bear, and straightening him out was going to be a full-time job.

We had our behaviorist do an evaluation on him.  She said, “Neuter him now.  It’s the only thing that will save him.”

We don’t always like to neuter pups that young – we prefer to wait til six months – but in this case we went ahead and had him done at three months.  

I saw an improvement within a week.  They say that it can take two weeks or more, but he calmed down so much after the surgery that he was almost like a different dog.  I worked with him intensively.  I crate trained him.  I leash trained him.  I took him to soccer games and parks – he even walked with me in the Walnut Cove Christmas Parade.

T. Rex still had some bad days – but they were few and far between, and he was always willing to give up the fight.  He and Nanuq became very good friends… and he and I grew to adore one another.  

We decided that since we’d put so much money and time into T. Rex that we would try to adopt him locally.  Our photographer did a shoot for us.  The photos were fabulous, and Tammera captured his very T. Rex-ness perfectly.







And my favorite of all:



Surely, with these photos, someone would come along and adopt this beautiful boy.  Surely, someone would see him on Petfinder or Adopt-a-Pet and say, “Oh my God, I’ve been looking for a black lab and this one is perfect!”

That didn’t happen.  These photos were taken in December.  As of yesterday, we had not received one inquiry on T. Rex.  Therefore, yesterday we put him on a transport for North Shore Animal League.  We feel that T. Rex will stand a much better chance of finding a good furever home with North Shore’s vast resources than with our very limited ones.

I bathed him night before last, and sat on the side of the tub long after his bath rubbing him with the towel (which he loved) and sniffling.  Yesterday morning was hectic – we sent a total of 17 pups and young dogs to North Shore, and had to use two vehicles to get them all there!  I thought maybe I’d be too busy to grieve until later.

They loaded the young puppies before the older pups & dogs, and so I had ample time to sit on the tailgate of the van with T. Rex in my lap and fully realize what I was letting go.  

The North Shore driver is a regular, and he shook his finger at me before we ever got to T. Rex.  “I know you,” he said.  “I remember you.  You and that other gal are always up on my bus crying your eyes out over these dogs.  Don’t you do it this time.  I don’t want to see that.”

(That other gal is Emily.)

I gave him a winning smile and said, “I don’t know these puppies.  I’m fine right now.  I won’t promise not to cry, though, because my boy will be loaded last, and I’m pretty sure I’ll cry then.”

He shook his head.  “You foster parents.  I could never do what you do… but I’m glad you do it.”

T. Rex didn’t understand when I walked him onto the bus and put him in a crate.  He stared at me with betrayal writ large in his eyes.  And I was weeping openly when I walked off of the bus.  (I’m sniveling about it again even as I write it.)

Here’s the thing about these problem kids.  I’m good at this.  I’m not the best by any means – I am not and will never be Cesar Milan – but I’m good with them.  The only thing is, they take a lot of investment, a lot of time, energy… a lot of love.  And when you put that much into a dog it’s impossible not to feel the separation like a rift in your soul.

Yesterday Mona & I wrote a grant application that wanted stories with an emphasis on volunteers.  I wrote, “Our volunteers love to be abused.  Physically or emotionally, it doesn’t matter – they take it and come back begging for more.”

T. Rex wasn’t the only dog I put on that transport yesterday that I love.  Louise, a stray female Border Collie-type mix, also went, and after I spent a month earning her trust and devotion, I betrayed her as well.  

Why? you ask.  Why do you keep doing this?

Oh, Gentle Reader, the answer is not easy to put into words and is more about feelings than logic.  Maybe, as the song says, I just miss the misery.  Or maybe it’s that the feelings of doing something RIGHT in this world outweigh the feelings that I’ve betrayed my best friend.  I don’t know.

What I do know is this: 

Over the course of the last two years, I have fostered over fifty dogs and puppies, and two cats.  Of those, more than half went to North Shore Animal League.  Of the rest, most were adopted; two had to be euthanized (Billboy Baggypants due to severe birth defects, and Pepper due to age-related dementia); five are still with me – those five won’t go anywhere if they’re not adopted, because I am a no-kill advocate, and any animal that I take in is safe for the rest of its life.

From a numbers standpoint, that’s why I do it.  I’ve saved over fifty lives, thanks to my work with Stokes County Humane Society, and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

Want to learn more about what we’re doing in our community?  Visit our website – http://www.stokescountyhumanesociety.com


Never An Easy Choice



Back in May, I rescued Pepper, a senior dachshund mix, from the Stokes County Animal Shelter.  I saw her on Facebook and my heart stopped – that face, those ears, that build…  

When I was in Kindergarten, my mother picked me up from school one afternoon brimming over with a surprise.  Whatever was the secret? I wondered.  I begged; I cajoled; I whined; she wouldn’t tell.  We pulled into a parking lot I’d never visited, and walked into the most wonderful building ever, full of people and dogs.  My mother told me it was The Vet.  What was The Vet? It was the place where Good Pet Parents take their pets to visit the doctor, get their shots (I cringed; I hated getting shots myself and felt sorry that pets also had to have shots), and get medicine if they’re sick.

It was possibly the greatest place I’d ever been – but there was one teeny problem:  We didn’t HAVE  a pet!  My mother ignored this observation and instructed me to sit on a chair against the wall, and not to touch any pets without asking permission first.  Of course, as soon as she turned her back and walked up to the counter, I sidled up to a man with a very large dog whose ears were bandaged.

Is he hurt? I asked.  No, the man responded; this sort of dog was called a German Shepherd, and his ears were supposed to stand up by themselves, but since they weren’t standing up The Vet was using tape to help them learn to stand up.


Only then my mother turned around and beckoned for me, and so I trotted up to the counter.  The lady behind the counter carried a towel over, laid it on the counter, unwrapped it… and there was a scruffy little wire-haired dog with one ear that stood up and one that laid down.  My mother said it was ours, Our Very Own Puppy.

I pointed to the German Shepherd and wondered if Our Very Own Puppy ought not have her floppy ear taped so it would stand up.  My mother said no, that she liked it that way.

We named Our Very Own Puppy Pepper.  She was a wire-haired terrier mix, with a long, low build that makes me think now that maybe there  was some doxie in the mix somewhere back along the line.  Pepper was a spunky little firecracker, and stayed in trouble.  We had her until I was eighteen years old – she was fourteen, and it was her time.

When I saw that little black doxie mix with one perky ear and one floppy ear on Facebook last summer, I immediately thought of Pepper.  I went and picked her up the very next morning.  She attached herself to me and within two days she knew that her name was, in honor of my childhood best friend, Pepper.  

I took little Pepper everywhere.  She was such a great ride buddy – and I hardly ever had to use a leash, because she stuck to me like glue.

Of course I posted her picture on Petfinder, and on Facebook, and listed her as Available for Adoption, because I needed another dog like a hole in the head.

It just wasn’t meant for Pepper to leave me.  No one ever showed any interest in her, and I was secretly glad.  Pepper could be snarky, and she could be a nasty little piece of work, but she loved me fiercely, and I loved her too.

Unfortunately, little elderly dogs are prone to senility and dementia just like little elderly humans, and Pepper was not immune to the condition.  She started recoiling from my touch in fear a few weeks ago.  There were times I would reach to pet her and she would bite my hand even as she hit the ground screaming like I was killing her.  

Yesterday she bit me and within an hour had started a nasty unprovoked dog fight in my living room.  When I broke up the fracas I put all involved parties in crates to cool down.  I waited a good twenty minutes before letting Pepper out of her crate and she promptly bit me again, drawing blood this time, and screaming the whole time like someone was scalping her.  

It was with a heavy heart that I picked up my cell phone and called my vet, who is the best vet who ever practiced medicine.  Of course they could work her in on their Saturday half-day clinic; how soon could I be there?  I got dressed and convinced Pepper to let me pick her up.  

She was confused by the whole proceeding; she wanted to sit in my lap in the car, but she snapped at me if I tried to touch her.  She cowered against me when she heard Doc in the back, and growled and snarled so that we had to muzzle her so she didn’t bite him.

Once she was muzzled, Doc gently stroked her head and told me this:

When a little dog is suffering from such paranoid dementia that she fears even you, who I know good and well has never hurt this or any dog, then it’s time to let her go to that place where there is no more fear and she can be happy and young again.

My poor little second Pepper went to the Rainbow Bridge yesterday.  No one else in the world wanted her… but I loved her for the nine months I had her, and I hope that her last months were some of the happiest of her life.  That little dog worshiped the ground I walked on, and when she crossed the Bridge she carried a piece of my heart with her.

Be fearless again, little Pepper dog.  Tell First Pepper and Sandy, Mandy and Scruffy, and Rosie and Bonnie and Szundi and Dusty and Chinook and all the other great dogs I’ve loved that I look forward to meeting you all again.

A Day in the Life of a Crazy Dog Lady

I drove as fast as I dared down the winding Stokes County road as a damp misty fog rolled into the valleys with the coming of night.  One hand on the wheel, one hand on the stick, and an ice-cold puppy between my breasts, supported only by my bra (and oh, was I ever glad that I’d chosen to wear the one that fastens in the front!)…

Maybe I’d better back up and start from the beginning.  I’m sure you’d like to know how exactly I wound up with a puppy in my bra, snuggled between my boobs.

It had already been a crazy day.  We’d been to Lowe’s for a new electric fence box and to Wal-Mart for travel rations, and BACK to Wal-Mart for tires and to Lowe’s for a spool of electric fence wire, all before lunch time.  Hubby installed the new fence box between the two trips to town.  I spent over an hour after the second trip stringing new and/or repairing old electric wire and in several places attaching new plastic fobs to the fence posts.  Nanuq and T. Rex seem to have a taste for bright yellow electric fence fobs, and had torn down the wire that was attached to the bright yellow fobs they ate.  Unfortunately the yellow ones are actually better fobs than the black ones, so it’s yellow ones we’ll be using here on out, and we’ll just have to make sure the fence is always on to prevent further destruction.

But I digress.  You, gentle reader, care not at all about my electric fence problems.  I hooked you with the puppy in my bra, and that’s what you want to read about.

Evening had fallen.  I was reading a book, Facebooking, and halfway watching Celebrity Ghost Stories on Biography.  It’s not because they’re Celebrity Ghost Stories – it’s because they’re Ghost Stories.  I like to get a little spooky once in awhile.  I could care less about the Celebrity angle.

Just as I was beginning to pay more attention to the book than the other distractions, my cell phone rang.  It was an old friend, Dottie, and she was absolutely in tears.  I could hardly understand what she was saying – but I got enough to know that Allie had puppies and was dead.

“I’m hanging up,” I told Dottie, “I’ll be there in a minute.”

I grabbed some felt blankets, jumped in the car, and headed out.

I know that Dottie is absolutely heartbroken.  I have been in her shoes many times, and when I got to her house I made sure to give her a hug.  I’m pretty sure that’s the proper thing to do in this sort of situation – I speak dog so much better than I speak human, but Dottie understands me anyway.

Allie was on the enclosed back porch.  Her neck and head were swollen horribly, and it appeared she seized a little before she died.  Even though it’s been cool lately, I was pretty sure I was looking at a snake bite victim.

Here’s the thing about snake bites.  When a snake bites a human, it’s generally on a foot, a leg, a hand, or a lower arm – in other words, far enough from the heart that there is time to administer anti-venom  and far enough from airways to be safe from suffocation.  When a snake bites a dog it’s usually around the head.  Venomous snake bites swell fairly rapidly, and a bite to the head or neck can swell until the airways are obstructed.  I’m no vet, but to my layman’s view, that’s what happened to Allie.

The pups were two or three days old, and Dottie said that Allie died on top of most of them and they smothered.  There were three left, scrabbling at Allie’s dry teats in frustration.  I quickly scooped them up and slipped them into the pocket of my hoodie.  I reassured Dottie that snakebites can happen to anyone and that I’d make sure the pups were cared for, and I was off.

I immediately called our puppy expert, Emily.  Emily is not just our puppy expert.  She’s also the mother of four children, the younger three of whom she homeschools.  The oldest, Maya Sings, was homeschooled until this past fall, when she decided she wanted to go to high school.  Maya & my youngest daughter have gotten to be good friends.  They’re the same age and have some classes together.  Emily handles a free clothing closet ministry for her church, is very craft-y, and helps to manage her husband’s band and Maya’s budding singing career.  In addition to all of this, Emily is one of our most reliable foster moms.  Shortly before I called her, she’d been down to the animal shelter to pick up a guinea pig and a rabbit, and had submitted photos of some puppies for approval in our Operation: Puppy Love program.

I called Emily and explained the situation.  Did she have any puppy formula?  It just so happened that she did.  Could she take these three on?  Of course she could.

I sped down country roads, around curves and up hills and down into valleys, over the river and through the woods, to Emily’s house I went.  The pups in my hoodie pocket squirmed and whimpered.  I kept my shifting hand in my pocket (except when I had to shift gears) and the other hand on the wheel.  The pups were chilly but they were squirmy and whiny and so I was confident they would be all right.

When I got to Emily’s, she wasn’t there – she’d gone to Mona’s for bottles.  Maya met me at the door with her younger siblings in tow and took the pups off my hands.  I headed back for town, thinking that it was a good night not to cook.  I hit the Hardees drive-thru, got supper, and headed toward home.  I almost made it, too, when my phone rang again.

It was Dottie.  One of the dead pups was moving.  I told her I would be there directly – she offered to have her husband meet me halfway instead.  We met at a small country store/gas station.  He rolled his window down and passed me the pup, which was wrapped in a tee shirt.  I unwrapped the shirt.  The pup was cold as death, and I thought there had to be a mistake, this pup couldn’t possibly be alive – but then it groaned.  I quickly handed the shirt back.

“Don’t you need something to wrap it in?” Brian asked.

“No,” I responded, “I’m going to carry it in my bra.”  It was the only warm place I could think of where I could hold the pup skin to skin, hands-free.

“Good Lord,” Brian snorted, and he left as I stuffed the pup down the front of my shirt.

Back in the car, I unfastened the top three snaps of my bra and wiggled the pup around until his chest and paws were against my chest.  Then I pulled my hoodie down and hit the gas.

I drove as fast as I dared down the winding Stokes County road as a damp misty fog rolled into the valleys with the coming of night.  One hand on the wheel, one hand on the stick, and an ice-cold puppy between my breasts, supported only by my bra (and oh, was I ever glad that I’d chosen to wear the one that fastens in the front!).  As I drove I tried to reach Emily, to no avail.  No problem; I’d just turn up on her doorstep.

And I did.

Maya opened the door, saw me standing there, and said, “I thought the rest were dead!”

“They thought so too,” I said, stepping inside.  In the living room, I pulled the pup out of my bra and passed it to Emily.  “No promises,” I told her.  “It’s too cold.  It might not make it.  But I know that if anyone can pull it through, you can.”

Emily looked grim.  “I don’t know,” she said.  “I’ll do my best.”

I flopped down beside her on the sofa and grinned at her.  “Did you ever know that you’re my hero?” I demanded.

She laughed at me.  She usually does – but I meant it then and I’ll always mean it.  Emily is absolutely my hero.

Will the puppies live? I don’t know – but if Emily can’t save them, I’ll know it was because there was no saving them.

As I drove home, I couldn’t help but think about how much death I’ve seen since I got involved in the animal rescue and welfare world.  I’m pretty sure the only thing that keeps me going is that I speak dog better than I speak human… and the dogs that I save tell me every day not to give up.  So I don’t.

Onyx – One Pit Bull’s Second Chance

Back in early March, a black dog showed up in my driveway.  She was severely emaciated and had been beaten half to death, and evidently was dumped on the low-traffic dead-end road to die.  In spite of her condition – or more likely because of it – none of us could get close to her.  I was never able to take photos of her because every time she spotted a human she would stagger into the woods.  I took the pragmatic (and I’ll admit cold) attitude that she would die or she wouldn’t, but there was little I could do about it if I couldn’t catch her.  I wanted to give her a fighting chance all the same so I started putting food out at the curve of the driveway.  One day during that period Danielle Hoversten gave me a pork shoulder bone with a great deal of good skin and fatty meat still attached, with instructions to give it to my dogs.  I thought about it and decided it would be better used as a gift to the poor starving “pibble” I’d been feeding than to my own pampered pooches and their equally pampered foster siblings.  Evidently our “pibble” thought so too, because there wasn’t a scrap left in the dish when I stopped to refill it the next morning.  She got dry kibble (Natural Balance mostly); she also got boiled chicken and rice; canned tuna; canned salmon; grilled salmon; and many other things that probably made my dogs very jealous.

This went on for a little more than a month, when finally my landlord at the time was able to catch her.  Damon, my son, and I went over to get her.  I knew going in that bringing a Pit Bull-type mix into my pack and my family was a huge risk, but by this point I knew she wouldn’t survive the animal shelter.  Don’t get me wrong – our ACOs in Stokes County are amazing, and they do everything they can to find homes for the dogs that come through the shelter – but the volume is too high, and this poor dog was in an extremely unadoptable condition.


She’d put on a little weight, but still had much more to gain to be considered healthy.  Most of her wounds had healed, though a couple of the worst needed a little work.  She kept her head turned and her eyes averted, and didn’t struggle against me at all, though she also didn’t make any effort to make handling her any easier.  She was just limp, like a rag dog.  I pulled out the leash and she got those scared eyes that a dog gets when it knows it’s in trouble.  I put the leash around her neck and she exploded, struggling and bucking and fighting against me like a wild thing.  I released the leash and it slipped off her neck and she hit the ground like a switch had been turned off.  OK; we’d do it without the leash.  Someone had hurt her with a leash and she was as a result terrified of it.  I had a bad feeling… but it was outweighed by an intense rush of sympathy for her and anger at whoever had hurt her.  I won’t say what I wish I could do if I found out who did those things to that dog…  Suffice it to say that if I ever find out who hurt her, who tried to fight her, it will not end well for that person.


Even in her half-starved state she was too heavy for me to carry all the way home – not to mention the fact I frankly didn’t want a strange, frightened, stressed dog of ANY breed that close to my face for an extended period of time.  In the end Damon had to go home and get my car and bring it around so that we could drive her the few hundred yards to my house.  She rode draped across my lap, head and eyes still averted.  She didn’t move a muscle.  At home I carried her into the house – there she again panicked; I quickly brought her into the back yard, where she lay still while the other dogs checked her out, then belly-crawled into a vacant doghouse, where she spent most of the next two days.  That evening I crawled into the doghouse with her and injected her with parvo/distemper vaccine, squirted Bordatella vaccine up her nose, and wormed her.  I dragged her out so that I could run my hands over her body and assess her wounds, which I cleaned with warm soapy water and peroxide.  I gave her every opportunity to bite me and she consistently refused to do so.

Two days later we had her spayed – and though it was a risk to her in her condition, I’m glad we authorized the procedure, because it turned out she was pregnant, and the last thing this world needs is one more litter of unwanted “pibble” puppies.


Did you know that the number one animal euthanized in shelters in North Carolina is the cat… but number two is the Pit Bull-type dog?  This is a vastly under-served group of breeds (American Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Bulldog, to name a few.)  They are overly-sensationalized, get a great deal of negative press, and most people are either afraid of them or want them for the wrong reasons.  The handful of rescue groups who deal specifically with Pit Bull-type dogs are full, and most general rescues won’t take them at all because they’re just hard to move and have such negative stereotypes attached to them.  SCHS currently has one other “pibble” mix in foster care – her name is Tulip and she’s been with her foster mom for two years.  For that reason, SCHS was reluctant to bring another Pit-type mix into the program… but on the other hand, we agreed we had little choice with this dog.


I decided to call this gal Onyx.  My husband called her Blackie, and my teenage children (ages 14, 16 and almost 18) insisted that her name was Reptar.  It’s a good thing that I’m her primary handler, because Onyx is the name she recognizes!

She gradually began to come out of her shell and warmed up to the family – though she warmed up to the dogs long before she trusted us, and she bonded with my 14-year-old daughter Bridget before she would have anything to do with the rest of us.  She is very young – around a year old – and she still plays very rough, which is ok for some of my dogs but not for others.  During the first month she was with us there were two dog fights.  The first time, Onyx and my 4 year old Pointer mix, Peaches, got into a fight – Peaches started the fight and took the worst of the injuries, and in my honest opinion she deserved everything she got; but it cost me quite a bit of money, and Peaches had to stay in the house afterward and was only able to be around Onyx under adult human supervision.  Onyx also fought one other of my fosters, a little black & tan hound mix named Ladybug; I’m not sure who started that one but I have a feeling it was a result of Ladybug objecting to Onyx’s roughhousing.  In any event, it was evident from these two fights that Onyx isn’t a fighter by nature; there were no kill-wounds on either Peaches or Ladybug, and Onyx stopped fighting on her own when my husband told her to stop – dangerous dogs fight to kill and don’t stop until the adversary is dead.


Our SCHS trainer advised after the second fight that we should separate Onyx from the other dogs and not let her around them under any circumstances.  I struggled for quite some time with that and finally hubby and I decided not to heed the expert’s advice.  Our fear was that it would frustrate Onyx and would be a setback in what was otherwise, in my humble opinion, a marvelous recovery.  Maybe we should have heeded her advice – maybe not.  Onyx was doing so well with the males – Max and Nanuq – and with my sweet submissive Maggie,  that I couldn’t imagine her fighting again.


At the end of August, we moved to my mother’s farm.  I call it a farm – it’s going to become one again, though it hasn’t been farmed in many years.   That is a subject for another blog post.  Mama has three acres, two of which are surrounded by a five foot welded wire fence.  She has a whole passel of frou-frou yappy little dogs, a Pyrie, a Basset Hound, and a very elderly pointer mix.  We fenced the front quarter-acre all the way across for my dogs, leaving the remaining property for hers.  The move was chaotic for all involved, but it was done and we settled in, critters and all.


The first weekend of September we took Onyx to the Stokes Stomp, our annual fall festival here in Stokes County.  She did very well.  She met many new people, including a young teen with Downs Syndrome, with whom she communed for quite some time.  I wish someone had taken a photo – it would have been a perfect positive PR bit for the Pit Bull breeds.


The second weekend in September Onyx jumped on Maggie.  Once again, hubby was home and was able to stop it with nothing more than his verbal command that they stop.  Maggie only had one bad bite, to her thigh.  This time, though, hubby had had enough.


“She has to go,” he said.  “Today.”


He was adamant.  No amount of tears or pleading on my part could sway him.  At this point the SCHS Executive Director and one of our SCHS volunteers stepped up and started reaching out.  They found a rescuer who would take her.  The catch was, though the volunteer was familiar with the rescuer, none of the rest of us were.  I informed hubby that the rescuer was willing to take Onyx, but that we were going to deliver her there, and if I didn’t like what I saw we would be bringing Onyx home again.


We drove to Hamptonville that Saturday evening.  Hamptonville is between Yadkinville and North Wilkesboro on 421.  It’s about an hour & a half from us.  Yahoo! Maps says two hours, but Yahoo! Maps doesn’t take my husband’s lead foot into account.


It was dark when we pulled up outside the single-wide trailer.  I was apprehensive, but I refused to make any premature judgments.  I myself have lived in both single-wide and double-wide trailers, and might again.  I would NOT judge this person based on her home.


She came out to the car as we stepped onto her driveway.  She looked to be about 15.  “Amber?”  I asked.


“You must be Heather!” she responded with a firm handshake.  “This is my husband.”  She introduced us to her hubby and I introduced her to mine.  Then I introduced her to Onyx.


Amber, as it turns out, is 23 years old and very active in rescue.  She mainly works with the Pit Bull breeds, but she’s got others as well.  Including her own personal dogs she has facilities for ten dogs at one time.  Including my own dogs and Onyx, I had ten as well.  She had had an adoption the day before – that’s the only reason she was able to take Onyx.  I explained that Onyx is female aggressive; Amber was not concerned.  She said that’s typical with Pit Bull breeds.  She herself has one female aggressive foster and two of her own dogs are male aggressive.  She happily showed me around her place, and I confess myself impressed.  It’s not a shelter facility by any means… but neither is mine.  Amber at 23 is pretty much where I am at 35, and yes, I really am impressed.  She is young, but I feel she will go far in the rescue world.  After all, it’s about the dogs, and Amber, much like myself, has little care for anything besides the dogs.


I cried when we drove away without Onyx.  I doubt I’ll ever completely recover from her.   Every dog should make an impact on a human’s life… but every so often a dog comes along that is so miraculous the mark it makes is like a scar.  I know I’ll never forget her.  I’ll never be sorry for any of it, either.  And I can live my life knowing that I took an abused, unloved Pit Bull and showed her that human beings could be sources of love and kindness as well as pain and cruelty.  I hope she never forgets that.



Baby the Wonder Dog – Post-Surgery Update 08/07/12

Baby got her stitches out yesterday.  Dr. Cowan is VERY pleased with her progress.  She said that Baby’s knee looks very good, the range of motion is exactly what she expected, and she didn’t feel any slippage when she flexed the joint.

While we were waiting in the waiting room, I had to lay down on top of Baby on the floor – yes, stretched out atop her – to keep her from jumping and charging at people and dogs.  She’s too friendly with people… and too forward with dogs.

Where we are now:

Baby can walk without the towel sling – only Dr. Cowan advised we still keep the towel around her abdomen so that we can quickly lift her off the ground should she try to run.

Baby can spend a very little bit of time outside of the crate.  Not much, but some.  Baby loves that time and is harder than ever to get back in the crate.

Baby still has to wear the Cone of Shame, at least through Friday, preferably a little longer.  This is to keep her from licking at the surgical incision & reopening it – the scabs came off when the stitches came out and it’s a little raw.

Since the restrictions have been slightly eased, Baby has tried to run; chase chickens; back out of the Cone of Shame while on the leash in an attempt to escape; jump; get on the furniture; go in the kitchen.  Those last two are no-nos from before the surgery and apply to all the dogs:  My husband doesn’t want dogs on the furniture or in the kitchen.

I’m getting ready to go shove her back in her crate for the night.  Wish me luck.

Baby the Wonder Dog – Home After Surgery

Surgery #1 went well, and is a success so far.  That’s right, so far.

I went to pick Baby up Monday evening.  I put several pillows and cushions in my medium-sized wire crate, thinking I could bulk it up enough that she would be able to lay down comfortably but not move around.


Baby was tickled to see Bridget and me.  She wagged her tail non-stop.  I was tickled to see her too but I pretended otherwise.  If I showed Baby how glad I was to see her it would only have excited her even more.

Dr. Cowan went over the discharge instructions with us, and had one of her young men show us how to use a towel to support Baby’s hindquarters when walking.  I asked how many times a day to walk her; Dr. Cowan said three or four.  She advised that the E-collar (hereinafter referred to as The Cone of Shame) was to stay on at all times.  I noticed that The Cone of Shame is attached to Baby’s collar – and is held together with staples AND duct tape.  Hmmm…  I didn’t ask – I’m not sure I want to know.  Dr. Cowan also reminded us that there are to be no baths until the stitches are out.  (This is kind of too bad in a way – poor Baby reeks.)  Then she had her young man carry Baby out to the car for me.  Bridget went along to sit with Baby while I took care of the final billing necessities.

When I exited the clinic Baby began to bark and JUMP UP AND DOWN in the crate.  Yes, friends and fans, she JUMPED UP AND DOWN in the crate.  She just had surgery 07/25 and by 07/30 she figured she was well enough to JUMP UP AND DOWN.

I went back into the clinic and asked if they could lend me some additional pillows (or cinder blocks, or Valium, or something) to decrease her range of motion.  I got a small pillow and a middle-sized ancient (slightly funky) teddy bear.

They did not stop Baby’s acrobatics.

With a sigh I headed for the local Dollar General, which is on the other side of Walnut Cove from the Animal Hospital.  Okay, sure, Walnut Cove isn’t a huge town… but it’s plenty big enough when one must cross the “business district,” the “school zone,” and “downtown” with a madly cavorting canine who just had knee surgery and is on complete restriction.  I bought enough pink and blue throw pillows at Dollar General to wedge around Baby keep her from any further break dancing and headed home.

This behavior didn’t improve at home.  

Baby was madly glad to see Charles, Peaches, Pepper, Damon, and the chickens.  She objected to being carried.  She objected to being held while the crate came in.  She objected very strenuously to being bundled back into the crate.  Bridget claimed two of the new pillows – one blue & one pink – and loaned me her old, large, Hello Kitty pillow in their stead.  This was sufficient to keep her from any additional jumping.



Tuesday I was off work.  I went to Mona’s and borrowed a plastic SCHS crate.  This one is not quite as tall, wide, or long as my wire crate.  I waited until Tuesday evening to switch – I needed Charles to hold Baby while I dismantled the wire crate & assembled the plastic one.  

Baby didn’t WANT Charles to hold her.  She didn’t want to sit nicely at his side.  She promptly backed right out of her collar – Cone of Shame and all.  It’s a good thing I was right there to grab her, because there’s no telling what she’d have done to herself if I hadn’t.

Getting Baby into the plastic crate required muttered incantations, venomous threats, and strangled prayers.  And quite a bit of grunting, huffing, and grumbling on Baby’s part.  I shoved her in head-first and she almost turned the crate over turning herself around. 

I back her in now – I lift her hindquarters off the ground, using my arm to hold her up, and my shoulder and other hand to force her to back up using only her front legs.  

She’s convinced I enjoy pushing her around.

Baby’s not allowed to walk.  I let her out of the crate, snap the leash on her collar, grab the towel, and carry her outside.  She is set down in one spot and the towel is quickly slung beneath her belly, either end wrapped up over her back – I grasp these ends together and keep her weight lifted off of her hind legs.  I only release the towel for her to potty.  Then I carry her inside and back her into the crate.  When Baby tries to dash after a chicken, I simply lift her hindquarters all the way off the ground via towel sling and she’s SUPPOSED to stop.  She doesn’t stop.  She slings her weight to one side and another, peddling her hind legs against the air and straining toward freedom.

Walking doesn’t begin to cover it. However, for the sake of simplicity (and because it’s past my bedtime) I’m going to call this “walking Baby” even though she’s not doing much actual walking.

During the day when I’m at work Vannesa & Damon are in charge of walking Baby – I want her to walk at least once during the day while I’m out.  Damon hasn’t complained much – Vannesa “hates that dog” and doesn’t think it’s “fair” that she has to carry her in and out.  They both want to know why Bridget isn’t helping.  Truth?  I’m not sure Bridget is strong enough to handle Baby’s BS, and that’s the honest truth.

When I come home from work I like to put down my bags, take off my shoes, and – yes, I’ll admit it, I usually need to go potty.  I’ve got a one hour commute, folks.  Don’t judge me.

Baby judges me – if I don’t take Baby outside the instant I walk through the door she pitches a fit.  When we get outside she stands and looks around for several minutes before doing her business.  I don’t mind that so much – she’s cooped up the bulk of the day, after all.  I do mind the fit, though.  It’s a wonder the fool hasn’t blown her bloody knee before it has a chance to even half heal.

This too will pass, I tell her.  She doesn’t believe me.  She’s somewhat depressed at this point.  However, her appetite is as good as it ever was, so I’m not going to worry.

As for me, I’ll be glad when she’s allowed out of the crate.  It’s not the same to sit here blogging and not have her shoving her head at my elbow demanding attention.  I feel so guilty for locking her up.  I don’t tell her so, of course – it wouldn’t do for her to know.  She’d exploit my guilt shamelessly.  

Ah, well.  We don’t always like what’s good for us.  That’s true for two-legs as well as four-legs.

This is a good topic for discussion. As a rescuer, I rely on an application and interview and meet & greet process to place my fosters. As a human being, I have a yard full of impulse rescues. Is it wrong for me to rescue an animal on impulse and then put potential adopters through the third degree? I tend to think not. I’d be interested in other points of view.


A couple of years ago, the neighbors came by and Billy talked with them outside.  They had brought us a malnourished puppy they had found in the road and asked us if we would take care of her.  When Billy came inside to ask me if we would take the puppy, I acted on impulse and immediately said, “Yes.” I had no idea what kind of puppy, what gender, whether she was sick – I just heard, “They don’t want her to get hurt” and impulsively answered in the affirmative.

I prefer older dogs to puppies, we’re trying to get our number of dogs down, not up, and paying for a puppy’s vetting was not something I had planned on – in fact, it presented a hardship for us.  I didn’t have anything prepared for the puppy’s arrival and had no idea how she might get on with our…

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Baby the Wonder Dog – UPDATE 07/25/12

Thanks to everyone who made donations – whether $5 or $50 – and to two very timely grants from Red Rover and The Mosby Foundation, Baby was FINALLY able to have her first surgery today.  One down, one to go – YEE HA!  Now we need to raise the funds for the other leg – approximately $750 more.  I’ve learned a great deal about grants over the last few weeks, and I plan to go after more, but the bulk of the funds for the next surgery will come from you, our donors – just like most of the money for the first surgery did.  I’ve spoken with Dr. Cowan this evening, and she said the surgery went very well and that if Baby continues to do well she might – MIGHT – let her come home Friday, instead of next Wednesday.  Wouldn’t that be amazing??

Baby’s going to be unhappy for the next few weeks.  We’ll be dismantling her large, deluxe, Great Pyrenees sized crate and replacing it with one that barely has enough room for her to stand – but not comfortably.  Her movements will be very restricted – she will have to stay in the smaller crate and can only come out to eat or potty.  Pottying will be another chore – we’ll have to carry her up & down the front stairs – there will be NO going out back with the other dogs.

I was full of doubts and worries last night & this morning.  Would the surgery go well?  That doubt has been assuaged.  Will she be angry with me?  How long is she going to pout over her activity restriction?  Will she ever forgive me?

That last doubt is plain silly, really, because she’s a dog – of COURSE she’s going to forgive me.  That’s what dogs do.  I’ve begun to wonder why Jesus told us to be like sheep – I think He’d have done better to tell us to be like dogs.  Wag your tail, lick your Master’s face (ok, not that one – sorry God, I love You and all, but I don’t think I want to lick Your face), and above all, forgive every injury, every inequity, every wrong done you.  Yep, we should be more like dogs.

I’ll most assuredly post again when she comes home, and I will keep everyone updated on her progress.  In the meantime, I’m going to go feed the rest of my pack, and put my chickens away for the night, and miss Baby every time I turn around.

At least the cat poo is safe for the night.

(If you’d like to contribute to Baby’s next surgery, visit our website at http://www.stokescountyhumanesociety.com.  And for more of Baby’s antics, become a fan on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/BabysLuxatingPatella)