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Heart Pawing Tales – March 2011

Weimnarnarer Rehab
By Meredith Elyea

I have always been a dog person- so when my fiancée and I bought our first home, the next step was a no-brainer…GET A DOG! He already had a 3-year-old black Labrador Retriever, but I had fallen in love with a different breed. After some begging, my fiancée decided to get me a Weimaraner.

We picked Brinkley up a couple weeks later. We learned he was literally “sick as a dog” ridden with worms and flees, starving, unsocialized to people, and even scarred (from wounds that went untreated). He was severely malnourished and protective over food. His frequent fits of aggression were a serious concern. Since he was not yet full-grown, we decided to commit to six months of rehabilitation.
At the end of the six-months, we would re-evaluate whether keeping him was safe.

I dove into books and TV shows on rehabbing aggressive dogs. I put him on a strict schedule; crate trained him, made him wait for his food until he had my permission to eat, fed him with my bare hands, and familiarized him with being touched on his face and paws. My husband and I walked or ran him every day to make sure he was not building up any aggressive energy. I even changed my submissive habits to become the pack leader in our home. Even Sammy (our lab) would help put him in his place if he became aggressive. Six months of rehab later, we were seeing the fruits of our labor. He was happy and respectful of us. His trust was growing. I remember the first time he wagged his tail (about 3 months into our care), I almost cried!

Today Brinkley is thriving. He is healthy, happy, and VERY obedient and well trained. Our friends and family (who initially thought we were crazy) always comment on what a great dog he is now. He is never aggressive and has become the most loving and entertaining dog I’ve ever known! He is a talented pointer and travels wonderfully in the car… never distracts me or tries to get in the front seat.

However, this is not the end of Brinkley’s story. A few months ago, I made a solo trip about fourteen hours from home. At the last minute, I had a bad feeling about the trip and decided to take Brinkley with me for company. In my haste to arrive at our destination, I skipped dinner. I was not hungry and anxious to get on the road. Going about 80 mph through the mountains in VA, Brinkley suddenly started inching his way into the front seat. He has never done this before and I scolded him and made him move back. A few seconds later, he was up next to me again. When I put my arm back to block him from coming any further, he quickly put his front legs and his head down on my arm. I tried everything to get him to move. I even threw a part of a hamburger in the back seat. He ignored it (he would NEVER do that- he never lost his scavenging ways). After about ten minutes, I decided to pull over and see if he needed to relieve himself. He refused to leave the car. As I got back into the car, my vision blurred and I started feeling nauseous, as if I was going to pass out. I immediately lay back in my seat and Brinkley resumed his position on top of me. About fifteen minutes later, I was feeling better and Brinkley stood up and curled up in the back seat again. Come to find out, I have a heart condition that causes low blood pressure. If my pressure gets too low (often from not eating enough salt), I will pass out. Laying down rushed blood back into my heart, keeping me from losing consciousness.

Brinkley, my formerly sick, aggressive puppy, saved my life. I cannot imagine what would have happened if I never pulled the car over. I may have passed out while driving and taken my life and possibly others! I read an article recently about a woman, with the same condition as mine, with a service-dog that smells when her blood pressure is low and sits on her until she is stable enough to walk around. (Exactly what Brinkley did!) Brinkley is our hero. In one moment, he re-paid all the effort and time we put into ridding him of bad habits and abuse. Sometimes, a little compassion goes a long way.

Dishwasher Disaster
By Kathleen

A few weeks ago, our 1 1/2 year old Golden Retriever, Jack, was watching me load the dishwasher, like he always does.

As I would put the plates into the dishwasher, Jack would attempt to lick the plates. I told him “no” but every time I turned toward the sink; he would continue to lick the plates. Well, before I knew what was happening, and before I had time to react, I watched in horror as the whole bottom Jackdishwasher rack went flying out of the dishwasher.

The rack was loaded with plates and other dishes. Jack began running out of the kitchen as plates flew everywhere–breaking on to the kitchen floor. Jack was flailing around–with the whole entire bottom dishwasher rack attached to his collar! Jack attempted to go underneath the dining room table and hide from it, yet the whole rack was still attached to his collar.

As our other dog stood and watched in amazement, I attempted to catch up with Jack. My friend who happened to be sitting at the dining room table was able to work the rack loose from Jack’s collar, as Jack was trembling.

Amazingly, there were no cuts on Jack, and he was not injured, but he trembled for the next 45 minutes or so. Cleaning the broken dishes up was was minor in comparison to Jack’s anxiety over this very scary experience. This was a terrifying experience, and I hope that no one ever has to experience this happening to them.

Needless to say, Jack no longer licks the plates or dishes in the dishwasher.

Breeder Donates Dog to a Disabled Little Boy
By Janice Swofford

On January 2, 2011 Janice & Joe Swofford donated an AKC registered Border Collie named Evie, she turned one year old Dec 11, 2010 to Joe Renecker. Joe is a 13 yr old young man who has spent his entire life in a wheel chair.

In December 2010, Janice was contacted by Joe’s father asking if she had any short haired black and white female Border Collies, as his son Joe wanted a Border collie as a helper dog. Luckily, Janice had one puppy left from a December 2009 breeding that she had CERF tested (The Canine Eye Registration Foundation), Herd Instinct tested, shown in AKC conformation show, and was fourth in the puppy class at the Border Collie Nationals in 2010. Janice realized at the Border Collie Nationals that Evie did not show an interest in being shown, so she decided to find Evie a great pet home. So when she received Joe’s e-mail, Janice felt that this was meant to be as Evie’s mother was a Certified Therapy dog. Janice was afraid Evie might be a little bit too active for Joe, so she asked Jeff to bring Joe to meet Evie. When Joe and his family came to visit, his parents brought him inside, the first thing Evie did was go lay her head in his lap and then sit quietly beside his chair. Janice knew at that moment this was meant to be so Evie went to live with Joe. Jeff & Joe are taking Obedience classes with Evie and will go on to get her Canine Good Citizen® award. Additionally, they are planning on getting her Therapy dog license so that when Joe has to go into the hospital Evie will be able to go visit.

Below is an e-mail from Joe’s Parents:
Dear Janice:
Evie is such a great and smart dog! I can tell you a lot of things why I think so. The main one is that she treats Joe very gentle. She will jump up and hug us if we call her, but she never does so to Joe. Every time Joe calls her, she will walk over, put her head on Joe’s lap and sit quietly next to Joe. Every time she does so, she makes me want to cry…

We cannot thank you enough for your kindness and generosity. This world is a better place to live with people like you. We are very grateful to what you have done to us.

Memories of Keeper
By Carole Moores

My beloved Keeper, almost 9, passed away last week from lymphoma. He was a therapy dog. We were actively involved with Therapy Dogs International and in particular, the “Tail Wagging Tutors” program where we worked as a team, helping children learn to read at our local library. There was one “child” in particular, an autistic child who was 21 years, but reading at the “Dick and Jane” level. When she came into the room for the first time, she was tense and anxious because of Keeper’s size. It took her almost 10 minutes to come across the floor to where we were sitting. Keeper usually greeted the children as they came into the room, but this time, he remained sitting and very quiet, sensing her fear. When she finally st down to my left (keeper was on my right), she was still glancing at him anxiously. Her mother, sitting across from her encouraged her to begin reading her book, telling her Keeper would like the story. She started to read, though looking at Keeper from time to time. After about 10 minutes, Keeper got up from his sitting position and walked away from me. As I started to call him back, I thought, no, let’s see what he does, because I trusted his instincts. He circled back behind my chair and approached the girl from the side very slowly. When he reached her, he sat quietly and just looked at her with his beautiful brown eyes. She giggled at him. Then Keeper gently placed his head on her lap. She smiled, giggled, and said “Keeper likes the story”! Her mother and I had tears in our eyes. After that first time, she came eagerly into the room excited that Keeper was ready to hear her read. I thought I would share this story in tribute to not only Keeper, but on behalf of every therapy dog out there who touches so many lives.

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