A dog with baggage

Two months ago this week (yikes…where has the time gone?), a sad puppy mill dog who later became known as Elsa, came home with me. Two weeks later she was in the ER being treated for cluster seizures. This sweet black-haired Ninja girl has come a very long way over the past two months, beyond the epilepsy diagnosis. This week we revisited the vet to have Elsa’s blood work re-evaluated. The results are in and she’s within the acceptable range. Even better news, it’s been nearly 4 weeks since her last seizure. With the increased dosage of Phenobarbital and addition of CBD oil, she’s doing well enough now that we can seriously focus on how to help her become a dog.

img_4045-2Granted, when we brought her home, she clearly had some baggage. With no normal socialization or experience upon which to rely, the simplest pleasures like grass under her paws, daily clean fresh water, adequate food, daily exercise, solid vet care, a snuggle on cozy furniture, toys, antlers and other chew toys, and a big brother to photo-bomb her…well what could be better?

Well, actually her whole demeanor is what could be better. Yesterday she actually did ‘zoomies’ for the first time, both in the house and outside in the back yard. Even Sam looked at her like she was some alien nutcase. And yes, I laughed out loud at her antics. But it warmed my heart that she’s feeling secure, confident and free enough to experience a canine joie de vivre at what provides pleasure and makes life enjoyable for her. She’s begun tossing her toys and then quickly pouncing on them in the mornings before her walks. She’s even starting to engage Sam in short playful banter which definitely warms my heart. Now if I can get Sam fully on board without too much umbrage taken, all will be good. 😉

She’s beginning to feel comfortable within her own fur, even if still constantly on squirrel alert and with a memory like an elephant revisits each and every location as if the squirrel were still there. I swear I’ve never seen a dog with such a remarkable memory bank for recalling with radar-like precision the location of all previously visited sites. If there was a squirrel there 5 weeks ago, chances are very good it should be there now, right? Truth be told, that’s rare but so far I haven’t been able to convince her otherwise. She is however beginning to respond very well with the “no, leave it” command. And my shoulder couldn’t be happier. She seems to understand other simply commands (i.e. ‘wait’ when we cross streets, ‘down’ and is getting a good handle on the concept of ‘no!’) and generally seems calm when out and about the ‘hood.

img_4043This week Elsa received her first bath and…ahem…a somewhat botched groom job. At least she’s clean, she smells fabulous and her hair is slightly shorter, but alas, she would have nothing, and I do mean nothing to do with the clippers around her face. We’re gonna keep working on that one with the hope she will relax for 90 seconds so I can make a couple quick swipes and remove all the little curlicues so she can see and eat without hair being front and center either in her eyes or food goobers hanging from chin hairs. But one step at a time. She held up well in the tub but alas is still impossible to photograph so you can see her soulful brown eyes. The fact that cell phone cameras kind of suck at metering doesn’t help but hopefully, with more practice (and maybe good editing software) we’ll get better at both grooming and photographing.

One area that has increased over the several weeks, is the carnage that has ticked upward from this innocent looking girl. Remember the chewed up eye glasses? Add to that a pair of wool socks with no toes anymore, and a long training leash chewed at two separate places so she could be immediately be next to me while I was raking leaves over the weekend. Heaven forbid she had to watch from the front patio!

With more time and devoted loving, the hope remains that Ms. Elsa will turn into the phenomenal dog she was clearly destined to become. We remain hopeful and are taking it one day at a time.

Do you have any experience transforming a puppy mill or rescued dog?

Live, love, bark! <3

70 thoughts on “A dog with baggage

  1. Elsa and Sam, you are both the picture of beauty! How does Elsa feel about nyla or bene bones? They are a staple in our house for the poodles with a penchant to chew.

  2. In my life only one dog had ever been bought from a pet shop, my other dogs have been rescue dogs. I have to say that I seem to have been lucky in that my dogs have never had health or other problems, or if they have they have certainly been good at hiding them. I have loved all my dogs. Benji is also a rescue dog and we think he has some kind of mild separation anxiety and is not happy when I am not with him. Other than that, he is fine. With one exception, all my dogs have been special and with the love and care you have for your dogs, I just know the Lovely Elsa is in good, caring hands. ( C’mon Sam, you like her too, don’t you?)

  3. I have no experience with a mill dog, but my Sinead is a very shy little dog. I had a heck of a time trimming her toenails when I first had her, and it took 2 years of work to get that to pass. My only advice would be to lean on the professionals, if you need to just focus on desensitizing without getting any real work done.

    Jean from Welcome to the Menagerie

  4. I was 3 when Mom adopted me from a high kill shelter and then a few months in foster care. Nobody knows what I was doing for 3 years – besides having puppies. Or why I had bites on my head from foster care – probably from the big dogs biting me and stealing my food. I went directly to obedience school so I could learn how to conduct myself.

    Love and licks,

  5. It sounds like Elsa is learning how to become a dog. It’s so wonderful! Honestly, I’m not sure I’d be up for a project like that, but I admire anyone who is. Then again, if you’d asked me if I’d be up for adopting a rescue puppy from down South with a lot of genetic/fear issues, I would have said no. But we’re doing it, and wouldn’t trade it for the world, as challenging as it is. 🙂

  6. Elsa has made huge, huge strides and is starting to shine! I am super excited for her. On the face clipping, what I do with a new pup or dog who has never been groomed is run the clippers all over them without turning the clippers on. Then I turn them on and just hold them in front of the dog/pup without moving until they seem comfortable. Repeat. Treats. Try again. Good luck!

      1. Sure. It just takes patience, and you have more time than I do when I am grooming for a client, so I am sure you will succeed.

  7. This is just the happy story that I needed today. I’m sure that Elsa will come around completely in a few more months. Pierre hates to be groomed so I can’t promise that will get any better. BOL!

  8. Love to hear she was doing zoomies! She’s so cute! (even with the iphone photo limitations!) 🙂 No experience w/ puppy mill dogs, but Rita was found on the beach and missed the crucial socialization period as a pup. It’s a long, slow road, but it sure sounds like Ms. Elsa has already come a long way in a short time!

  9. Hi Monika – Reading about Elsa is almost a trip down memory lane with our Ray. Watching him attempt play for the first was so emotional. All the best with Elsa and just be patient, Ray turned a “social corner” after about 2 years with us, and is continually improving. Here we are, just over 3-1/2 years later and still working with him but his Humane Society friends hardly recognize him now because he is a social butterfly! We still have issues to deal with, and perhaps always will, but he is priceless! 🙂

    1. It is so heartwarming to rescue these brave animals though I often wonder who rescued whom? Three cheers for Ray and Elsa as they continue to make progress and provide their uprights with tons of love and companionship.

  10. I currently have 4 fosters, all rescue dogs. I love it when I get one who has been around humans and have some manners, but usually they are at least partially unsocialized; my 6 month foster was completely u socialized. To have him come to me for attention is awesome. It’s kind of sad that all my fosters have no idea what to do with toys–or even balls.

  11. “you left me your ‘ shadow ‘ alone on your patio
    miles an miles an many more miles from you!?”
    “must chew through lease mommy needs me to chase off any squirrels.
    and look at that, standing next to mom i can hardly see the patio.” “sigh..training mom is hard work.”

  12. No dog experience here but I adopted a young semi-feral cat. She will never be a lap cat (she’s been with me 11 years) but she’s not terrified of her own shadow anymore. It took another cat and years of patience to get her to trust. She climbed into bed this morning after my husband got up but I’m not allowed to touch her. She just watches me and purrs. I take what I can get. I love Elsa’s story and love that you are taking the time with her. Zoomies are the best (that’s one thing that cats and dogs have in common). Hazel will zoom with the best of them.

  13. Time and love – that’s the answer. I’m sure Elsa will be just fine. She’s going through all of the stages she never got to in the puppy mill. She’s finally getting to be a ‘dog’. Isn’t that an awesome feeling to be sharing all of her firsts? Sending mucho hogs and snout kisses ya’lls way. XOXO – Bacon

  14. good girl! Good boy Sam -the handsome- man. She’s doing poodle puppy stuff. Cole did all that in the first two years. Wasn’t Sam about 4 when you got him? Past the puppy stuff? But she never got a childhood.
    Look her right in the eyes and tell her she MUST allow face work. One must suffer for beauty. Curls in eyes start all kinds of trouble. She’ll get it, like any good super model hair removal is impawtant.

    1. Sam was barely 2 when he came to the Ranch and did experience a period where he tried to figure out how the city worked as opposed to the farm. His family though seemed to love him while I doubt Elsa has ever experienced love before. Teaching a dog to trust is a challenge but one that is worth it in the end. She’s a real love.

  15. The vet probably charged you a lot for the blood work. For a simple bag of sunflower seeds, I could have looked at her blood, saw that it was red and said “she’s in great shape”. But nooooo, you had to go the expensive route and this bird is starving.

  16. Years ago we took on William – a young deaf English setter unwanted by his owners.

    Totally uncivilised, his main delight was to open the fridge, remove an egg, push the door shut behind him then shoot off to the bedroom to pull back the bedclothes, devour the egg and push back the bedclothes. So if I went out to garden, he had to come too!

    The other dogs took him in hand. Terriers would sit in front of the fridge while he stood hopefully by, tail waving.

    One paw on the stairs and the lurcher was there, shouldering him down.

    On the other hand, when the rush to the kitchen at feeding time took place the lurcher would always prod him awake if he was sleeping.

    With their assistance, William turned out to be a sweet, loving dog – though not the most intelligent – and we had him for seventeen good years.

    1. Good on you, Helen! I’m just hoping Sam shows her the ropes and maybe learns a little himself. I often think there was a setter in his lineage since he’s dumb as a stump about things. That or he’s the cleverest con artist who only works on his agenda. After reading your story, I’m keeping one eye on the egg bin in the fridge! LOL

  17. I’m sure Elsa will be the dog once every poodle wants to be… with all the love and a wonderful home everything is possible… We hope the seizure monster is gone and maybe even forever and Elsa never has to fight with a seizure… I always smile when I see her, there is still the memory of Oliver the poodle who made my childhood to a special one… and as hard as I ponder I can’t remember the name of my class mate whose father owned her… hahahaha

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