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Sophie and Me; the Love Grows!

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Well, haven’t written a new post for a couple of weeks since I’ve been in technology hell revolving around my new computer. But one thing keeps me smiling that is, observing my little Sophie. And even though I’ve been physically and mentally occupied with computer issues, I can’t help reflecting about my relationship with her and thus my feelings about all animals, and their emotions. I say my relationship, but more accurately as I reflect, it is our relationship, not just mine.

 

I’ve always been fascinated by the behavior I’ve observed in Charlie and Teddy, both individually, together, and each as they grew from puppyhood to adult. I also used to trace their behavior back to evolutionary biology, a favorite subject of mine. But with Sophie my little adoptee, it’s different. Sophie had just turned 2 when she came home with me 7 months ago, so the changes I am observing aren’t from aging out of puppyhood, and in fact, she has become just as puppyish as Charlie and Teddy were as puppies.

 

But more than her playfulness, I think I am witnessing her growing trust, and her growing love for me. Relationships are dynamic and reciprocal, that is they are based upon the effects both parties have on each other. Actions and reactions cause interactions, more reactions and so on. Studies have shown that while a mother’s behavior affects the behavior of her baby, the baby’s temperament and behavior has an equal effect on the mother, which in turn then affects the mother’s behavior toward the baby, and so on. Hence, so it goes between me and Sophie. A reciprocal relationship as all relationships are.

 

When I first brought Sophie home it was barely a month that I had said goodbye to Teddy after a long battle with her illness. I wasn’t sure how much love I could feel so soon for another dog. But I knew in my heart that I love dogs, and that focusing on her needs and her individuality would result in my affection growing.

Of course, there was some frustration along the way particularly with figuring out why Sophie insisted on using my bed as a giant wee wee pad, but it feels like ancient history now. And I’m amazed that it feels as though the issue didn’t even exist. Maybe it’s because we have developed a loving positive relationship that has overridden any negative.

 

I am also amazed that I feel Sophie’s love now. Yes she gives me belly, that is, she lies on her back, legs up in the air so I can rub and kiss her belly. But more than that, she now gazes at length into my eyes, she cuddles and snuggles against me tucking her head under my chin, and I especially love when she lies on my chest facing me, looks at me and gives me kisses. And none of this involves treats!

 

One of the behaviors that she now also exhibits is a lack of fear with me, which swells my heart with affection. For instance, in the beginning when I would brush her, she would remain totally still although I could observe it was not her favorite thing. Now, she fights me, squirms, and well, she makes it pretty difficult for me. Thinking back. I can’t help but smile, she’s no longer afraid to fight the grooming.

 

I said in one of my earlier blogs that I expected that adopting an adult dog would be different than bringing home a puppy, bought or otherwise. Adult dogs have histories, too many unfortunately not good. So while all of us, human or non- human have individual personalities, puppies are kind of a clean slate. Adopted dogs come with experiences that mold their behaviors. Earning their love and trust is different than earning the love and trust of a puppy.

 

I never thought about this raising Charlie and Teddy, why would I. They were bundles of energy, and mischief. I had much joy and love from them, and I loved them for who they were individually. Now, I am experiencing what it is like to overcome history, with love, and patience, kindness and positive conditioning. And what feels so special is feeling her trust and love grow for me as a result.

 

Adopt and Save a Life!

 

Next: George, a rescue visits Sophie!

 

 

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Every Dog Bred is Another Dog Dead.

Adopt Me Please“Every Dog Bred is Another Dog Dead”. Sobering statement, isn’t it? When I read this, my heart sank. I had to stop and process it and what it meant. After all, it is a shocking statement, obviously meant to. I read this statement in a newsletter a few years ago from ARRF, an Animal Rights Organization, when they used it during a campaign. I had received this newsletter before I lost my two beloved dogs Charlie and Teddy, and it was one more reason for me to decide to never buy a dog again. But it wasn’t my first clue about the repercussions breeding more animals has.

My first clue that something wasn’t right about what goes on at some breeders was in 1997 when the pet shop salesman told me that Charlie was missing an ear. I say some breeders because back then I did not know much about the breeding practices of puppy mills. He told me that all their dogs came from a reputable breeder, but unfortunately accidents sometimes happen. Charlie’s ear accidentally got caught in a closing gate. Charlie was a wonderful smart sweet soul, who only twice exhibited tremendous fear I am guessing was an overreaction due to her accident. But I wondered about what really happened, was it just an isolated accident or was it indicative of mistreatment of all the dogs at the breeder?

“Every Dog Bred is Another Dog Dead” led me to think again about breeding practices when there are millions of dogs in shelters that need homes (This applies to cats too, of course). And why are we breeding millions of more dogs in this country when there are so many available wonderful dogs that need a home? As I have written, there are puppies and purebreds available for adoption too, not just adult dogs. I can only think of one main reason, money. Heck, aren’t the expensive designer dogs such as Labradoodles really just a mixed breed?

Puppy mills especially breed solely for greed. But they do so causing pain and suffering to innocent animals that depend upon us completely as human babies do. They want nothing from us other than companionship, love, food and shelter. As a matter of fact research has shown that dogs are the only species that need humans as much and more than their own. All species have socialization needs in varying degrees, but dogs need us more than their furry friends for their well being (The optimal socialization being human and other furry companionship). So, while dogs descended from the wolf, we domesticated them, we brought them close. We bred them into the hundreds of breeds that we now see at the dog shows for centuries to suit our needs. Yet…

Look at these statistics (1)

· Number of Companion Animals entering shelters nationally each year 5 million
· Number of Companion Animals euthanized in shelters each year 3.5 million
· Number of dogs euthanized in shelters each year 60%
· Number of cats euthanized in shelters each year 70%
· Total percentage of purebred dogs in shelters 20%

I’m left with the thought that these numbers do not include small rescue groups, foster homes, etc. such as where I adopted my Sophie.

Speaking of Sophie, each week I notice another wonderful behavioral change. This week I noticed that she is looking into my eyes now (Still not looking at the camera!), and rolling around on the floor giving me her belly to rub. She’s pulling out all the toys from her toy basket, which is amazing since she didn’t pick up a toy for over a month. She’s also walking so much more relaxed outside, and for the first time slowly greeted a beautiful Labrador nose to nose. May not sound like much, but seeing her blossom from fear to playful to more trusting means so much to me.

People that I have introduced Sophie to in my neighborhood tell me how lucky she is to have been adopted by me. But, I’ll say it again and again it is my joy, reward and luck to have adopted her. Adoption and helping Sophie has brought me more joy that I ever expected.

“According to HSUS & Maddie’s Fund and The Ad Council, there are about 17 million people in the market for companion animals this year. Only about a quarter of them will get a dog or cat from a rescue or shelter”. (2)

Adopt and save a life.

June

Next: My First Interview.

Sources:
1.American Humane Society, Born Free U.S.A., Pet Finder as of 8/22/2012
2.Pacelle, Wayne; The Beagle Has Landed, A Humane Nation Blog 6/24/2013

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Sophie and Me, Our Transformation!

I brought Sophie home almost 6 months ago, and so I’ve been reflecting mainly on two things this week. Twenty-five years ago I would have returned Sophie to her foster mom sometime during the first 2 weeks, and secondly, how amazed, proud and filled with joy I am to see how much she has blossomed and changed.

I never expected Sophie to turn my bed into a giant wee wee pad. I know that before I learned how deeply animals feel, and before I learned be a responsible guardian, I would have given her up. Making my bed a pit stop would have definitely been a deal breaker years ago. But, not only do I get to see how much she has learned and changed now, I get to feel the joy from it, and I get to see how much I have learned and changed too. I compare this to my coined phrase and motivational tip “The Other Rewards”. Years ago I wrote about how great I felt when my small jeans fit after I lost weight, but the other rewards I felt came from the pride of small successes on the way. I feel great to see Sophie acting happy like a puppy, but I feel rewarded that as a guardian, my commitment paid off. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy, but the joy I feel now everyday watching her was well worth it.

I didn’t stop trying different things aside from tin foil on the bed to covering my floor for a while with half a dozen wee wee pads to also limiting the space she had early mornings until she did go to the bathroom (Can’t get into all the details, it would take up your whole day). The day I snuck a peak to catch her right in the act on one of the wee wee pads, was the day we headed down the right track. I stuck my head out from around the corner, and in a high pitched excited happy voice yelled out “good girl” over and over and over while jumping for joy. She came running toward me tail wagging and while of course we still had mistakes for the next few months, she began and still runs tail wagging to find me immediately after a pee pee stop looking for praise.

I used the same method over and over whenever she would do something positive, including when she would stop to smell some other doggie’s pee pee outside, to more recently my jumping for joy like a crazy girl when she finally did her business outside (I’m sure someone watching me thought I was hilarious). I focused and rewarded her on the positive behaviors, while ignoring or distracting away from the negative behaviors.

Going to the bathroom on the appropriate spot at home and going outside were far from the only issues Sophie and I needed to work on. Sophie, the 5- pound little Poodle barked at almost every dog we encountered, and even once she lunged at my neighbor’s giant Newfoundland. While this incident was kind of funny, I didn’t want her to bark at every doggie we would encounter on our walks. I especially didn’t want her to spend her life having fear, which I surmise is much of the reason for her barking at other dogs. Her fears ranged from people to me saying no even though I didn’t say it harshly or in anger. She slightly cowered once when I said no and I knew that my little Sophie and I would overcome her fears slowly but surely, determined that I would never have my best friend cower again. To witness any dog regardless of size cower hurts me to see, but to me it also takes away the dignity and humanity we humans are supposed to have.

A boyfriend gave me the book “For the Love of a Dog” by Patricia McConnell PH.D, several years ago, which I dug it out when I brought Sophie home. I learned so much about reconditioning our best friends, or reeducating as I call it, which I have now come to prefer over training (Okay, I view training as a dominatistic stance versus teaching as we teach our children). I highly recommend this book whether we want to overcome fear, fear aggression, or aggression in our dogs, or any other behavior they show while understanding their emotions. One of the biggest reasons I learned that people bring their adopted dogs back to shelters is due to behavioral issues, so I think we can use a lot of help ourselves.

Is Sophie perfect now? No, of course not and nor do I expect or want her to be as maybe I once did, but we are well on our way, and I am filled with joy from all the rewards far beyond what I expected when I adopted her.

Next: Some statistics on us Americans and Our Companion Animals (And a little more of course about me and Sophie!).

Adopt and save a life!