December 28, 2010

Elmer's Eyes

Today I met Elmer.  He is a small, frightened dog.  Elmer is very different from most of the dogs I work with at the shelter because he is so little....and so shut down.  His eyes look like he has given up on life.  His big brown eyes are haunted.  I don't know what has scared him so badly.  Is it the sights, sounds and smells of the shelter?  Had something bad happened to him before he ended up here?  None of that really matters.  When I work with a dog I address them based on what I see in that moment.  Right now I see a sweet, terrified little guy that wants to remain unnoticed.

Elmer shares his kennel with 3 other small dogs.  When I first saw him he was cowering in the back while the other dogs came to the front to see if I had treats for them.  Upon entering the kennel the 3 other dogs all rushed to check me out and Elmer looked like he hoped I wouldn't see him.  I lifted him up so I could take him outside and he had a very strong urine smell and was trembling.

Not wanting to violate his personal space I put him down at my first opportunity and clipped the lead to his collar.  He froze.  When a dog is this frightened there is no treat in the world that is tempting enough.  He left me little choice but to apologize and scoop him up again.

When I got him out to the play yard I unclipped the lead and he could not get far enough away from me.  His objective was to hide.  Giving him plenty of time to observe me I spread out towels on the ground, sprinkled them liberally with treats and rummaged through my backpack.  Elmer was plastered against the fence on the opposite side of the yard. 

Finally I approached Elmer and put an Extra Small Thundershirt on his shaking body.

I carried Elmer back over to the blanket and I sat behind him doing some very gentle TTouches.  His little body relaxed a bit as I worked on his tiny ears.  This lasted about 3 minutes and I let him go.

My hope was that he would return to me - but he didn't.

Not wanting to overwhelm Elmer I decided he had enough for one day and I removed his Thundershirt and sat him down. 

He ran away from me and nervously ran back and forth just outside my reach.  He would watch me as he ran past.  I gave him no reaction other than to calmly tell him he is such a good boy and deserving of love.

Finally I packed things up to go and Elmer came over to the fence where I was and started pawing at it.  He was about 4 feet from me so I squatted down with my back against the fence and I reached out for  him.  Elmer didn't run and even took a single step toward me.  I scooped Elmer up on my lap and held him against my chest as I talked to him and did more gentle touches on him until the trembling stopped.

Was it my imagination?  At the very end I could swear I felt Elmer's body relax....ever so slightly.

The interesting thing about TTouch is that you don't always see improvement during the session.  Take Neo for example.  The first night I worked with him I thought I'd seen a very tiny bit of improvement, but the next day I was greeted by a completely different dog!  I'm hoping that when I see Elmer next he will be far more relaxed.

December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from TouchNpaws

See how softly she takes a treat?

Most people use the New Year as a time to reflect.  I kinda do it at Christmas time.  Maybe it is just a good time for me to count my blessings.  Working with these wonderful animals is a blessing to me.  It makes my heart sing to see the changes Tellington TTouch brings to their lives.  Where there was once pain, now it is gone.  Where there were mobility challenges the dog now runs and plays like a little puppy.  Where a dog would cry out in fear they now appreciate the warmth of human touch.

This past week has been one of those times I'm extraordinarily happy to be able to share the gift of TTouch with the animals at the shelter.

Remember Twinkie?  She is doing incredible.  If ever there was a silly, happy and lovable girl it is twinkie.

She loves her Hedgehog

A few days ago I was asked to help with an Australian Shepherd that had failed his first behavior test.  He is polite, walks nice on a leash and is very good at paying attention.  So what was the problem?  He cried out in fear when being touched.  Poor baby had no acceptance of social handling.  But because he won the hearts of those that matter he is being given an opportunity to learn that touch is good.  That is where I come in.

Neo in his Thundershirt

Our first session I saw for myself that he did indeed cry out if you touched anything other than his face, mouth or ears.  I used my wand to touch his body and he did not cry.  At least I could be confident he wasn't in pain.  So I put him in a Thundershirt and used the back of my hand to stroke him.  Sometimes he would cry and other times he did not.  It was clear that Neo wanted affection,  He would move close to me and put his head against my chest or on my lap.

Feeling that his issues are on an emotional level I was thankful that he readily allowed touch on his muzzle and even let me work on his gums.  Emotional issues are closely related to the mouth so I happily stroked his muzzle.

By the end of the session I could gently put my hand under the Thundershirt and do some touches.

Next day I saw him again.  To my wonderment I was greeted by a totally different boy!  Neo allowed me to touch him anywhere I wanted and never cried....not one single time.  Over night his brain had an opportunity to process the work we did and he must have decided touch was okay.

The fear has melted away and has been replaced by trust.

I worked with a friend, Eli,  from the shelter that day and Eli was able to do anything with Neo that I did.  It was not a selective acceptance on his part but a general feeling of trust.

Either Eli or I will work with him daily as he will be retested in a week or so.  I will be honest here that during that first session I was thinking "Hmm, this may be tougher than I thought" but I pushed that thought out of my mind and took Edie-Jane's advice to "Just do the work".

I certainly do not agree with all aspects of the standardized behavior tests but my agreement is neither here not there - it is what it is.  Neo must accept a "Dominance Hug" as part of the test.  Today Eli and his wife worked with Neo and Neo accepted a Dominance Hug from his wife!  Talk about a wonderful Christmas gift!

Go Neo!

This little guy doesn't have a name.  I understand they don't name them in the shelter until after they are behavior tested.  For now he is a number.  In my mind I've named him Eddie.  Doesn't he remind you a bit of Eddie Munster?

Can you believe that a few days ago this little guy was abandoned in a cardboard box!  I'll spare you the vile thoughts that occupy my mind about the type of person that would do this to him.  Suffice it to say that he is better off without them.

When I arrived at the shelter yesterday they were working on integrating him with the 3 other little dogs he would be sharing a kennel with. Yep, enough dogs are "thrown away" on a regular basis that it is necessary for the shelter to house multiple dogs in one kennel.  Better that than in a cardboard box - or being completely turned away because there is no room - but this is the reality folks...sad stuff.

Well a couple of the dogs were being a bit "enthusiastic" with little "Eddie" and he would get scared and growl at them.  Well, this wasn't going to work when they were all housed together.  I asked someone to get me an Extra Small Thundershirt and I wrapped him up, held him and did some TTouch.  The other puppies were taken outside to a play yard and after a bit "Eddie" and I joined them.

When we joined the other dogs outside I put him down and reassured him as he began to interact with his room mates.  The Thundershirt and TTouch helped him withstand the enthusiastic investigation of the other pups and in moments they were off and playing together.  As I left the shelter yesterday I stopped by to wish the 4 pups a Merry Christmas and tell them that NEXT Christmas they would all be in a home with their own families.  All were happily hanging out together.

That brings me to my plan for 2011.

For the past 2 years I have worked with the Adoptable dogs.  Now it is time for me to work "in the back" with those that have not yet been tested or those that have failed but have been offered another opportunity, a make up test if you will.  I feel what I have to offer will benefit these dogs - dogs like Twinkie and Neo - far more than the adoptables that have many, many volunteers available to help them.

My goal for 2011 is to help more and more dogs be comfortable in their skin, teach them to trust, and help them pass a behavior test that involves some things that are considered VERY rude in dog language.  The test is tough and made far more difficult when they are stressed, frightened and in a foreign environment away from everything they have ever know.  I wanna help to level the playing field.

A side effect from my change in direction is that I'll be writing about the good, the bad and the ugly.  I hope to educate people about the wonderful dogs that end up in shelters.  To shed a little light on how tough shelter life is and what over population is doing to innocent dogs.  That sometimes things are unfair and a dog pays the ultimate price.  Maybe one or two people will changes their minds about buying a pet shop puppy or decided to spay or neuter their dog and stop contributing to the problem.

Please keep Neo in your thoughts and prayers - send him positive energy, Reiki and distance TTouch as he studies for his upcoming test. 

December 21, 2010

Can you help me help them?

Did you know that Escondido Humane Society has 617 animals in their care? Some are housed in the shelter and some are in private foster care homes but either way that is a LOT of mouths to feed and needs to care for.

TouchNpaws will be walking in the Paws In The Park Walk-a-Thon to benefit the wonderful animals of Escondido Humane Society on March 27.  This Walk-a-Thon is critical to the shelter’s survival as so much of their daily operating expenses are funded through this walk.

Last year friends and family helped me raise $1,300 for the animals at Escondido Humane Society. Together I believe we should have no problem raising more!  I am asking for your help, donations and company matches again this year. 

How can you help?

• You can join Team TouchNpaws by clicking on the link and and start your own fundraising page, collect donations and walk with us in person or be a "Virtual Walker".

• You can start a “catch all” jar and stash your loose change and spare bills in there and turn them in as a tax deductible donation.

• Speaking of “Taxes” - There are 9 days left to make a nice donation for the animals and have it count toward your 2010 taxes!

Thank you for supporting us!

How can you make a donation?

Visit my fundraising page! 

CLICK here!

No amount is too small or too LARGE

Can we count on your support?

December 19, 2010

Twinkie and Krystal

A few days ago I was asked to work with a dog named Twinkie.  Twinkie is at the shelter and has not yet passed her behavior test so she can move into the adoptions area.  It would seem that she does not care for any one to get near her mouth.


Friday night I stopped by to introduce myself to Twinkie and to get a feel for where we would need to begin on Saturday morning.  I had made several different plans on what I might do to gain Twinkie's trust and get her to allow me to do some gentle touches on the outside of her muzzle.

When I met Twinkie she was very friendly.  I did a few basic introductory touches as I offered her treats.  Never did she show any signs of discomfort.  It was only a matter of minutes before I stroked her muzzle with the back of my hand.  Twinkie was fine with this.  We alternated play with TTouch.  We'd do some TTouches and then play.  Then we'd play some more and do some TTouches.   Twinkie wasn't the least bit concerned when I lifted her flew and stroked the inside of her lip area.  I was able to do circle TTouches on her gums, even if she had a toy or treat in her mouth!  No sign of protecting her mouth at all.

I didn't have any clicker equipment with me but I used my word marker "yep" to do some very basic clicker training with her.  We worked on "Sit" and "Look At Me" quite a bit.  What a smart girl she is.

Saturday I spent an hour with her doing more TTouches as she crawled onto my lap and cuddled with me as I worked on her.  Knowing how well she responded to my modified clicker training the night before I came prepared!  We worked on "Sit", "Stay", "Look At Me", "Touch", "Come" and even loose leash walking.  Again I was able to do any mouth work on her that I wanted to.

One of the most fun things we did was work on "Sit" and "Stay" while I threw her stuffed Hedge Hog for her.  Then she would run and retrieve it for me.  When Twinkie would return with her stuffy I was able to take it from her without any protest.  She would willingly trade the toy for a treat or allow me to gently remove it from her.  Of course she wanted something in return so I'd always offer her a treat or some TTouches.  Either were fine with Miss Twinkie.

My guess is she should be moving to Adoptions very soon!  She is going to make someone a wonderful companion.

Krystal the Beauty

Krystal is another dog I was asked to see if I could help.  Isn't she a beauty?

Owieeeee baby!
Turns out this lovely little girl has a horrendous case of Demodex Mange!  Demodex is not contagious but it sure can get pretty raw and sore.  Knowing how painful the lesions can be I decided to do distance TTouches on her back end.  With my hand a couple inches over her sore area I did TTouches that would help reduce pain and inflammation.

Sandy, a friend from French Bulldog Rescue Network has had wonderful results with a specific home cooked diet that has worked miracles on Demodex dogs.

While at my training in Portland in November there was a dog with very bad Demodex.  One of the students, that later adopted the dog, made a strong chamomile tea and when it cooled used it as a compress for the sore and inf lammed skin.  I shared both of these tips with the shelter to see what might be incorporated into her routine and speed up her healing.

Poor Krystal was turning to her back end and chewing on the open sores.  Obviously they itch and hurt but allowing her to do this will only hamper her healing.  I recommended a soft donut type collar for her so it could prevent her from chewing without the rough edge of an Elizabethan Collar roughing her up every time she turned her head that way.

This particular shelter has very dedicated volunteers and one would her her collar right away.

I've been told that as bad as Krystal looks in this photo she was far worse upon intake a week or two ago.  Demodex is an amazing malady for a dog to have.  Mites that are normally on the skin get out of control in stressful situations and eating the skin results in these sores.  I have seen dogs with horrible Demodex that is so bad you really aren't 100% even what breed they are.  Recovery with the right treatment and care can be swift and very dramatic.  Let's hope this is the result we see for darling Krystal.

December 10, 2010

A Year Ago Today

A year ago today our Marley was paralyzed and in tremendous pain.  This very minute last year Steve and I were frantic waiting for the call that he made it through his surgery.....we still had another hour and a half to wait.

It is amazing that the pain and emotions are still so close to the surface.  Even with the wonderful outcome we have had it is still very emotional to look back on it.

A huge Thank You to his Neuro Surgeon Dr. Tammy Stevenson who was able to clean out all the debris that blew into his spinal cord. 

To his Rehab Veterinarian Dr. Clair Sosna for her physical therapy and nutrition counseling. 

And to Linda Tellington Jones for giving me the ability to help my boy walk again. 

And the biggest Thank You to God for answering our prayers and giving us our boy back the same way he was.  It has been a heck of a journey.

Marley is the same happy, fun loving boy he always was.  He runs, plays and jumps (giving me a heart attack) - I doubt he even remembers the ordeal.  Steve and I will never forget and we tear up just watching him chase a tennis ball at times