Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Thank you to volunteers!

What a wonderful group of friends and volunteers we have! This morning I sent out an email requesting fresh straw for dog houses and some waterproof toys for the pups (winter thawing is not a good time for the stuffed toys I have on hand). I was bombarded with emails offering to help and fresh straw was here within a few hours (thanks Brenda and Kim!), with more coming tomorrow (thanks Sue!). The puppies were so happy with their piles of fresh straw in the dog houses, they've even begun to use the igloo dog house now that it has a pile of straw in it. I took them out a few new rubber dog toys this morning, they LOVE getting new toys. They barked at me when they saw me coming, and Natasha and Nora stayed out to see what I was bringing them (they're starting to catch on that every single time I visit I have something for them). Natasha grabbed a toy and Nevada ran out of the dog house to snag one right away. I know several people are dropping off new toys for them this week, I can't wait to give the toys to them. Mark came out for a very long visit with the pups this afternoon and we saw more wonderful progress. I watched out the window as Natasha ate out of Mark's hand several times! I wish I had grabbed the camera but was too caught up in the excitement of the moment. Nora came very close to his hand, I don't think it will be long before she tries it too. Nevada and Nina wandered around and ate treats off the ground close to him. A little while after Mark left I went out and tried something new. I sat on the wooden deck in the pen which is just a few inches off the ground. I had some jerky treats with me. The puppies were pretty full from their afternoon getting kibble from Mark, but within a minute Natasha was eating treats from my hand and licking my fingers. If I moved my hand she would jump back a few inches, but then come right back. Nora and Nevada weren't very interested, I think they were too full, but I had what I consider a bonding moment with Nina. After Natasha went back in the dog house, Nina walked out by herself, across right in front of me and into the igloo only a couple feet away. She poked her head out and looked at me and I tossed her a couple of treats on the ground which she ate right away. Then she left the igloo and walked out a couple steps and sat looking around. She was only a few feet away from me and seemed very relaxed. I was still and didn't look right at her, but I did talk to her. After awhile she casually walked off and I got up and left. Tonight I saw something similar with Nina when I fed them their dinner. Just like this morning, I stood several feet away and faced them while they ate. At one point I shifted my weight and Nevada backed away from her bowl. Nina on the other hand actually came forward and was very relaxed. Nina and Natasha both seem to be comfortable with my voice now, Nora for the most part too. The only one who is still skittish when I start to talk is Nevada, but we have seen some good progress with her too, it's just a little slower than the other puppies. I didn't use a dog in the pen with me today, since they were doing so well, but tomorrow I'll be taking Paige back in again. I'd really be happy if Nora or Nina would take a treat from me tomorrow. I don't think it will be long before I will be able to touch Natasha.

2nd Morning

Wow, what a difference between yesterday morning and today! This morning when I went out for my first visit with their breakfast, the puppies stayed out and barked excitedly at me when I approached. When I entered the pen Natasha stayed out of the dog house while the rest ran in, and she sat calmly in front of it. I put their food bowls down and backed off about 5-6 feet, and stayed standing facing them. All 4 puppies came out and ate with me standing up and being that close (and facing them head on!). That's a huge step that I wasn't sure if they could handle yet. Last night for their evening meal I stayed standing also, but was turned sideways. I've made 4 visits out already this morning for feeding, watering, yard clean up and photo shoot. :-) Natasha now stays consistently out of the dog house when I'm moving around and passing near it to exit the yard. I ignore her when I'm doing this and don't try to reach out for her, that would scare her right in. When I was picking up the yard, the puppies followed me around and investigated my bucket, always staying about 10 feet away from me (except Natasha who will come within 5 feet usually). It is clear that Natasha is playing a very important role for these puppies right now. If she approaches something or someone new, then they will approach. If she doesn't, they don't. Nevada is so far the greatest concern as she remains the shyest and most reserved. Nina has made the most progress, as she was extremely shy when she arrived two days ago and is getting braver and braver all the time. Here is the photo of them hanging out this morning with me in my usual spot on the igloo. I was talking to them the entire time and making noises for picture taking. They seemed pretty comfortable with me talking to them, another huge improvement. They were full of treats and were just hanging out watching things. From left to right is Nora, Nevada (peeking out), Natasha, and Nina. Are they beautiful or what??

Monday, January 30, 2012

1st Therapy Dog visit

I took my 11 year old Collie Paige in the pen with me this afternoon for a "therapy dog" visit with the puppies. The intent being that they would be more comfortable with me if there was another dog in there interacting with me. It worked! Paige is a mother hen and very patient with puppies, and was the perfect candidate. The first picture is when we first came in. They stood back and barked at her, trying to get close, then retreating. This went on less than 5 minutes and soon they were following her all over the pen, even next to me. I had dog jerky treats with me and when they got close to the igloo where I was sitting I tossed them on the ground. The puppies were right next to me, even with me talking to them! As long as Paige was there, then they would stay. Natasha took 2 treats from my hand - major break through! I was very still, didn't look at her and held my hand out to the side both times. Two more volunteers are coming out today to sit with them and give them treats (Thanks Mark and Linda!). Wow, what amazing puppies, only 24 hours since they arrived. The resiliency of dogs never ceases to amaze me.

Introduction of New Toys

This was my 4th trip out this morning, to give the puppies some new and different toys to play with. My 3rd trip was to pick up the yard (boy puppies poop a lot!). I figured the presence of me carrying a shovel and a big bucket wasn't something the girls would be thrilled with, so while I was working I threw a handful of kibble on the ground every time I passed the opening of the dog house. Lo and behold, while I was at the other end of the pen cleaning up, Nora and Nevada came out and ate while I worked. Nora stayed out and curiously watched me, until I headed back in her direction. On my way out I tossed one last handful of kibble on the ground, which they came out quickly and ate. So my next trip was with new toys. I tossed the toys on the ground about 10 feet from the opening of their dog house and left to go inside. I took these photos through my living room window as I watched them explore the strange new objects in the pen...

This is the first photo, Nina came out first to investigate!

Natasha passed her and made it to the toy first...

Success! Natasha dragged her treasure back to the dog house to show off.

Nina is trying to get up the courage to go investigate the rest of the toys..

A little closer...

Meanwhile Nora is looking on curiously to see what happens and Nevada has gotten Natasha's toy..

Got it!

Nina lays down to enjoy her new find while the other engage in a great game of tug of war.

Good Morning Puppies!

I saw some new great things happening my first visit out this morning to give them their breakfast. The puppies are starting to get used to the back door sounds and aren't running for cover every time. When I went out this morning with their food I talked to them as usual. Most of them ran into their dog house but Natasha stayed out even after I started opening the gate into their pen. Only when I turned toward the dog house to set their food down did she run in. This time I decided to try staying in the pen while they ate, and I sat down on the igloo in the usual spot. Every puppy immediately came out and ate and stayed there until they were finished, even with me occasionally speaking. After eating Natasha walked to me within 5 feet, her curiousity about me is growing. There were some major steps taken with Nina, who stayed out the entire time I was in the pen and didn't retreat to my voice, only when I stood up to leave. Nora even picked up their red rubber treat ball and carried it around while I sat there. That may not seem like a big deal, since we usually take these things for granted, but it demonstrates a certain level of comfort in the puppies. I'll take more photos some time today.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Good Night Puppies

Boy it's really hard not being able to go out and scoop up those puppies to bring them into the house tonight. I went out earlier and gave them their evening meal. I was concerned about Nina getting enough to eat if I stayed in the pen, so instead I placed the bowls in front of the opening to their dog house and left until they were done eating. When I went back out to gather the bowls I saw Nina eating so I feel a little more relieved about that. The puppies all have thick fluffy coats so monitoring their weight without being able to touch them is going to be tricky. I went back out at bed time and tossed some treats into the dog house while I talked to them. After I moved a few feet back I heard them crunching on them. The only time they've had people reaching for them in the past is by strangers trying to catch them, so I want to start developing positive associations with hands coming toward them. Tomorrow is a new day and I look forward to spending time with them again, and introducing our dog Paige into the equation. We've seen a lot of good signs already in the first day, although it may be a long journey ahead.

Their first afternoon

They arrived at 11am this morning, riding in a barrel in the back of a pick up truck. The man who brought them reported that "they bite" and showed me the band aid on his finger to prove it. I peered inside the barrel and watched as 4 puppies scrambled to the back as fast as they could. They appeared to be shepherd/heeler mixes of some sort, all four look different, all unique and each one beautiful in her own way. The man reached in with heavy gloves and passed the first puppy into my arms. Each one was checked, all girls, and then taken to the 30x40 foot puppy pen in the back yard. I had already prepared the area with fresh water and toys, although now I began to realize that this would be a completely different experience than the usual batches of puppies that were dropped off at our house for fostering. As I set each puppy into the pen, she ran immediately into the nearest corner and began to shake, until all four were huddled together as far away from me as they could get. I left them alone for a short while so they could explore their new area, and went inside to send out a plea to many of our volunteers asking for them to come as often as possible "to sit with puppies". I also took the time to give each one of our new special puppies a name. Since this was our "N litter" of foster puppies, the girls are now named Natasha (black/tan shepherd-like), Nevada (the most heeler-like), Nora (all black with white chest/feet) and Nina (white with brown/black markings). I then went back outside, entered the pen and sat down as quietly as possible on top the small igloo dog house. I sat sideways, still as can be, and eventually the puppies began moving around, Natasha always the first one out and Nina the last. They would freeze if I spoke to them, so I only occasionally spoke. After 20 minutes of sitting I left the pen and went inside. I watched the puppies out the window and from there they appeared "normal". They were chewing on bones, wrestling and playing with the toys. If we opened the back door of our house they would startle and sometimes hide. My second visit I took them a bowl of puppy kibble. I perched in the dog house again and tossed handfuls of food onto the ground 5-10 feet away from me. I sat still and waited. The girls were hungry and almost immediately Natasha began sniffing and then eating pieces of kibble off the ground. Soon Nora, and then Nevada followed. Nina took a few minutes to venture out of the other dog house, and would pick up a few pieces then scramble back into the dog house. They all kept a very close eye on me and I tried to be very still. If they came near me I didn't speak at all. Natasha came within 2 feet of me to eat some kibble that had bounced my way. I was very happy with that. I worry most about Nina and Nevada. Nina is the shyest of the four, and Nevada was the quickest to use her mouth when we had carried them into their pen for the first time. I realize that even if these puppies are rehabilitated to be adopted, that they will have to go to special homes.