Puppy Mill Puppy… Take II

Okay, so after I failed so spectacularly as a foster carer last time (yep, couldn’t hand her back and had to keep my little foster charge), I kinda told myself that I wouldn’t foster another puppy in a hurry as you kinda get really attached to them and then you want to keep them and before you know it – I’ll be the crazy dog lady squished into the corner of the couch buried under a pile of small furry animals.

And so I steeled my resolve against the ‘save us! save us!’ emails and entreaties on Facebook, until I came home from my recent trip to Canada, Alaska and the US to discover that the puppy farm where little Dixie (aka D50) came from had surrendered another FORTY-SEVEN puppies!  So that was sixty animals in April when we took in little D50 and now another large group of poor neglected pups.  🙁   I hope the persons responsible for this are finally being prosecuted but that’s another story.

One of these poor forty-seven little lost souls just happened to be named Alaska… so, naturally I thought I had better take her in.   I went through the channels and agreed to foster Alaska thinking she might make a long term companion for Aunty Mary, only I didn’t know just how anti-social a puppy I was getting into bed with here.  I’ve been updating the animal rescue organisation with updates on how she has been settling in and so far, it’s not going so well..

Thursday, Aug 8, 2013 at 9:28 PM
Alaska had to be semi-swaddled firmly in a towel and clipped onto a leash that I had taken in with me to collect her from the temporary carer’s house.  I had been warned, after I agreed to foster her, that Alaska had bitten several of her carers to the point of drawing blood.  :S   Had Alaska attempted to bite, jump or otherwise escape I had a firm grasp of the lead but nonetheless, she was transferred to a crate the moment we got into the car.  Trust me, there was no way I was taking any chances with this very frightened little one being given opportunity to escape.

Since bringing her home, and settling Alaska in – the first few hours were pretty much as expected.  She cloistered herself in a crate which I have currently placed in the living room so she can be near the people but feel still feel secure.  Alaska and Dixie/D50 have been interacting okay together in open space – Dixie is very curious about Alaska but Alaska seems totally despondent.  She is ambivalent about her surroundings, about the new dog in front of her, and about new people, which is so very sad to see.  We have observed some territorial growling behaviour from Alaska when Dixie approached her newly formed ‘safe crate space’, but other than that, there we had no major problems.  We have all managed to pet the new puppy very gently and slowly, and while she is wary, and has a tendency to flinch, she showed no signs of aggression towards any of us at this stage.  I will write another update on Alaska’s progress tomorrow afternoon, but she seems exhausted and I anticipate she will likely sleep most of tomorrow.  We will see how she goes, but she is so scared… of everything.  🙁

alaska rescue puppy mill dog

Friday, 9 August 2013 at 9:36 PM
Update as promised on how Alaska is settling in.  As I predicted in my email yesterday afternoon, Alaska seemed exhausted and has been extremely quiet today (with a few notable exceptions below).  She has spent most of the day sleeping in her crate in the bathroom and remains disinterested in people, and is becoming more aggressive towards our dog Dixie, who we have largely kept separated from her, unless supervised.  She is still interested in her food though so that is positive, I guess.

We were aware that she had shown signs of aggression towards previous carers and today we saw signs of this when I attempted to put her on a lead to take her outside to toilet.  On both occasions we took her out, she bit my hands and resisted the lead most aggressively.  The collar that she was provided was completely inappropriate – it was old and worn and, I discovered moments too late, elasticised – so it stretched and came off easily over her head.  I tried a check chain collar on her which she resisted even more, biting at it until she knocked out a baby tooth.  I then tried another nylon collar I had about which also proved problematic.  I am wondering if she has perhaps been traumatised on a lead/collar around the neck at some point, as she has only shown signs of aggression towards people when she is on a collar and lead?!

I did have her sitting quietly in my lap for about two hours this evening for some gentle, quiet petting time (she appears to enjoy having her ears scratched and stroked) which indicates that she is not so alarmed around people, as to be showing aggression constantly.  We intend to continue socialising her like this as frequently as we can, so she gets used to calm, quiet and happy interactions with people.  My son (Angus, who is 12) is not allowed to interact with her without supervision at this stage.  Not being able to put her on a lead could prove really problematic if we are unable to find an alternative restraint system (like a body harness), to enable trips out into the yard without anyone getting bitten.

A family member is coming over tomorrow to meet with her – he is a Qld Police Canine Officer – and I am hoping he can give us some more strategies for helping her overcome her extreme fear of people and the aggression she is demonstrating towards Dixie.   Overall, Alaska is scared, despondent, depressed and occasionally aggressive… if she was a person you’d put her on a suicide watch so bad is her overall disposition.   It is so sad to see such a young little girl so lacking in joy and avoiding companionship.  I think we have our work cut out for us with her, but I am hopeful that she will come around.

alaska1 rescue dog puppy mill

Saturday, 10 August 2013 at 9:42PM
Alaska has spent most of the day hiding in her crate as we had a houseful of guests (my grandfather’s 95th birthday party).  We checked in on her regularly and made sure to gave handle her a bit even though she really wants to be left alone.  My hands are bruised and sore from being bitten yesterday, so I’m feeling a bit wary around her.  My Qld Police dog training relative, who has been training dogs for over two decades, was a bit blunt and brutal in his assessment of her situation but also gave me some ideas on trying to socialize her.  Firstly he told me to stop feeding her in a bowl, and instead to be feeding her from a pouch throughout the day, just small pieces at a time directly from my hand.  And to always give physical affection when feeding  her.  He said this would make her come to think of hands as instruments that bring food and good things, not things to be scared of and flinch away from.  He also said we were doing the right thing by keeping her physically in close contact with us as frequently as we could during the day and not letting her just keep hiding away to herself.

The depressing bit of my chat with him, was the information he imparted on dogs that are traumatised young, and display fear aggression traits (as compared to dominance aggression traits which is apparently a different kettle of fish.)  Apparently their prognosis tends to run one of two ways – they will either ‘come good’ fairly quickly and recover from their experiences because they are so young and resilient…  or they go completely the other way and remain traumatised because the trauma was suffered so young and it remains a permanent scar on them somehow.  If it turns out to be the latter, he advises in that situation, they euthanise dogs that don’t show fairly rapid signs of overcoming their troubled start because that aggression will remain with them forever… and this in spite of a certain amount of aggression being desirable traits in police dogs.  🙁

Anyway, will try the hand feeding and frequently physical contact and see if we can break down some of this fear and unwanted aggression and hostility.

Monday, 12 August 2013 at 10:36PM
Right, we have been feeding Alaska by hand while she is sitting on my lap for the last few days.  She has stopped flinching when we go to touch her so much so that is positive and the strategy of desensitising her from being fearful of hands is proving a good influence.  She is still extremely fearful and will spend most of her time exactly where you left her, whether that is in her crate in the bathroom, or on a mat on the carpet or on a towel sitting beside me on the couch, all curled up protectively in a foetal position most of the time.  Now she has stopped flinching away so bad every time we go to touch her, I have been putting her up on the couch beside more often to keep her close and give her lots of random pats and touches.

She completely ignores us, and Dixie, and anything else going on around here (people coming to the door, a tom cat mewling outside, anything), unless you are moving right towards her to interact with her directly… and then her reaction is to get immediately wary.   She still trembles really badly when picked up and it takes her ages to calm down again.  So most of the time she seems very quiet and still, she will tolerate being petted but flinches and gets extremely skittish if she is being handled at all.  She will eat okay, but seems disinterested in anything else.  She is proving unpredictable in that way… this morning she was sitting with me for about an hour and being fed by hand, and petted and even careful tummy rubbing, but when I went to pick her up to move her into the bathroom while I drove to school… she growled at me and tried to bite me again.  🙁   Feels a bit one step forward two steps back.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013 at 9:07pm
Have spent most of the day at home just hanging out with the puppies and working hard to keep trying to get Alaska comfortable being petted and around people.  The only difference I have noticed in her demeanour is a decreased growling and snapping at Dixie, they have even got an uneasy truce, where they will actually lay together for a while without Alaska growling.  She has shown a preparedness to lay down beside me and actually sleep, and has adopted a less defensive curled up sleeping position so she is stretching out more and seems less huddled and protective of her body… or maybe I am reading too much into puppy body language.  Mostly we have had a good day, when I go to pat at the moment, she is first checking out my hands for food and showing interest in hands, rather than immediately flinching or looking like she is going to get aggressive and bite.   So I am definitely going to have the other members of the household start feeding her by hand in the same way, so she stops flinching at them so much too.  On the downside, the two times I needed to shift her to other areas of the house today, I placed a towel around her first and then picked her up rather than using my hands directly to hold her… she seems to feel safer that way somehow and while I’d rather be able to pick her up and cuddle her and take her to other rooms, this seems less threatening for her and safer for me for now.

It is also kinda horrible (in my opinion) that if when I put her on the living room floor or in her crate in the bathroom or on a towel on the couch, she will be in the exact same spot that I left her in, when I come back an hour or more later… she is still showing absolutely no interest in her surroundings or coming out of her space to see what the people in the house are doing.

The Wondrous Tail of D50.

About a month ago, I saw a call go out on a friend’s Facebook page looking for people to foster rescue animals that were coming from a puppy mill out back of Roma somewhere.  Apparently they were expecting potentially around 60 dogs and needed an equal number of volunteer foster families to look after them, as the local RSPCA and pounds could not handle that sort of intake of rescued animals.  Rather uncharacteristically, I sent in the paperwork and offered to take on a couple of SMALL dogs if they were desperate.  I agreed to two animals as 1) I thought they might keep each other company if the poor little guys were traumatised from being at a puppy farm, 2) they might not be used to being alone and 3) the odds of our falling in love with one of them were reduced if we were lavishing attention on two animals… well, that was the theory anyway!

By the time the puppies were ready to collect, they had more than enough volunteers – social media rocks! – to house all the rescued animals and we bought home a somewhat thin, terribly scared little nameless pup who would not come anywhere near us.  🙁  She was bedraggled and unkempt, covered in fleas and multiple cattle ticks!  The poor little thing had a real hangdog look about her – in fact I don’t think I knew what that term really meant until I met this puppy.  She could hardly walk properly and kept her tail firmly between her legs at all times.  For such a young little pup she had the most anxious eyes I’ve ever seen and she literally trembled whenever anyone picked her up.  She would not eat out of her bowl and would scoot in, grab some food, drop it and eat it somewhere else while keeping a wary eye on anyone who was nearby.  And I think the thing that pulled on the heartstrings the most was the way she didn’t shake herself when I bathed her… she just stood in the tub.  Trembling and scared, while I poured water over her head as I wrestled the fleas under control.  It was as though she was used to standing around in the rain with a wet head or something and didn’t bother to shake the water off, because it was somehow pointless.  She looked so small and helpless and sad.  🙁

puppy mill dog rehabilitation

After a few days, she started to tentatively walk around the house investigating this huge space… it must have felt like the world had opened up compared to being stuck in a horrid cage her whole life.  Clean up and slowly getting her diet up to scratch, we watched on as she walked around on her very wobbly and under-used legs and saw her first attempts at running once she realized she could actually move about.  Talk about clumsy.  Her back legs didn’t want to cooperate at all and she would sit down oddly as she tried to sit AND keep her tail between her legs.  After only a few days she started to come out of her shell a bit and would let us gently pat her, and while still extremely timid she started to make progress in leaps and bounds… literally.

puppy mill farm rehabilitation rehome new

Skip forward a couple of weeks and she’s wagging her tail in excitement every day, running around the house with confidence, jumping up on the couch with ease and trying to lick people and biting on her chew toys and basically well, acting like a puppy!  It’s amazing to see the transformation in her.  We’ve been working on learning to sit, we’ve learned the areas of the house she is not allowed into (invisible doorways), we’ve learned to pee when told to ‘hurry up’ outside and while we are still working on coming when called, I am sure we will get there eventually!  I’ve noticed that instead of having two somewhat forlorn and floppy ears, she’s now listening to everything going on around her, and one of her ears sticks up straight, and she is alert and interested in all the interesting noises going on.  She seems to love nothing more than to curl up beside me and sleep while I study my dreaded Latin, and will happily roll over onto her back for a tummy rub at every opportunity!  She’s still a very quiet and placid given she is barely seven months old (approximate age according to her vet check up) and sometimes I think she sleeps so much because she is trying to catch up on seven months of lost sleep from being constantly surrounded by nearly a hundred other trapped and anxious barking dogs!

The one thing we really have to work on is teaching her to come to her name though!  I think we’ve inadvertently given her a bit of an identity crisis.  After bringing her home we found after a few days that calling her D50 wasn’t going to cut it at all (D20 maybe… but D50 – nope!), and we started to call her Kimber (because they make a very cool 1911 ;).  But then she got a naming sponsor to help raise funds for Animal Rescue Queensland, the organisation who saved her from the puppy mill (donations of dog supplies or money can be made here) and her naming sponsor chose to call her Pixie.  Which strangely we all absolutely hated, as it didn’t seem to suit her at all.  But we thought if she was going to potentially go off to a new home we would have to train her to answer to her name, and the closest thing to Pixie that we found palatable was Dixi – which in Latin is the 1st person, singular, perfect, indicative, active of the verb dīcō dīcere dixī dictum 3D meaning, ‘to say, talk or speak’ … which is slightly ironic given how quiet she is.  So Dixi it is.  🙂

rehabilitation puppy mill farm animal

It’s been amazing to see her change from such a scared little pup into such a gorgeous little girl with such a sweet personality.  But as they say in the foster community, she’s turning into a big ol’ foster fail… because there is no way we are letting this little girl out of our lives now!  She is such a gorgeous little dog that she has won her way into the hearts of the whole family and nearly everyone who has met her so far!  So we are going to adopt her as soon as the last of her vet work and paperwork is completed.  She’s had the worst possible start in life but thanks to ARQ and a friend sharing a post of Facebook, she seems to have totally landed on her feet.

And so that is the Wondrous Tail of D50, and how she found a home.

‘Find iPhone’ Application? Not Activated!

A couple of weeks ago, I did something I never thought I would.  I gave the Small Child a functioning mobile phone so that I could put him on the bus to school and not be worrying that he made it safely. The problem of course is Translink… they’re notoriously unreliable, with Mr K on occasion storming back into the house half an hour after leaving saying three buses never came, and constantly complaining that they’re late and of course the whole, having to change buses at a busy bus interchange to get to school from here.  Just another one of those things I probably would never have bothered with if he were travelling with a sibling and they could look out for each other… oh, the joys of having an only child.

The Small Child has been in possession of the second hand iPhone since about March, when Mr K upgraded and was using it primarily on the wifi to play computer games and  such, and had demonstrated his capacity to keep it charged, not treat it like a toy and to the best of my knowledge wasn’t surfing for porn on it.  So, it was decided that sufficient levels of maturity and responsibility were being exhibited, and the phone was hooked up to a cheap BYO phone plan which allowed unlimited free calls to Mum and Dad.  So far all good.  But, of course, what happens once the phone is activated?  It got ‘lost’.

misplaced smartphone distress lost phone

Bugger. I had picked him up from BigSal’s after school, as per usual, and he had the phone with him then. We then drove to town to collect Mr K after work, not usual, and potential point of phone loss Number 1 occurs as they switched seats. On the way home, we decided to stop for frozen cokes because it was disgustingly hot and the Small Child took his phone into the store with him – potential point of phone loss Number 2.  Came home and Small Child checked the letterbox – potential point of phone loss Number 3. After that the Child + phone should have been securely inside the domicile… ‘should’ being the operative word in this statement.

Phone was thence reported missing when getting ready to go to school the following morning.  Mr K and the Small Child both asked me first thing in the morning if I had seen it – ‘Negatory Ghost Rider, no sightings of missing communications device’. They left for the day, sans phone, and I went back to attempting to read an article on ‘Demonic Possession and Mental Disorders of the Middle Ages’ and promptly forgot all about the entire incident.

Around midday, Mr K gave me a call to see how I was getting on and enquired if the Small Child’s phone turned up… a brief moment passed while I did a ‘Huh? HeLostHisPhone?WhenDidThatHappen?’ before the early morning conversation came back to me (yay marshmallow brain!).  Bugger. I guess I had better try and track it down.

His school has a policy of all phones at school being signed into and out of the office every day, so I called Bev in the office to see if it was signed out the previous day or had he inadvertently left it behind… no luck. It had definitely gone home with the Small Child.  Mr K had already rung both the building near where we picked him up and the frozen coke dispensary to see if an iPhone in a blue case had been handed in (yeah, as if!) and likewise, no joy there. I tried calling BigSal to see if it turned up at her place but as per usual she wasn’t answering her phone.  So I figured – it had to be in the car.  Three thorough searches, by three people of varying levels of competency later, and we determined it most definitely wasn’t hiding in the car.  We now had one very distraught Small Child who was feeling disappointed, heartbroken and somewhat guilty for losing his prized possession.

Now here is the truly stupid bit… iPhones as we know, have a ‘Find iPhone’ application and it was the ONE THING this particular iPhone didn’t have installed and activated.  I could open the application and find MY iPhone, my Macbook, track Mr K’s iPad and his phone, but for some reason the one device that was mostly likely to have been lost HAD NOT BEEN ACTIVATED WITH THIS FEATURE… sigh.  Stupid rookie mistake – we are use to administering our own gear and not someone else’s, in this case the Small Childs.  Bugger.

smartphone lost find my phone application

So, I signed into our phone provider’s website and was encouraged to find that no calls had been made using the handset or the SIM card.  I was rapidly hitting the point where I was going to have to cancel the account/SIM and disable the IMEI before we copped any bills… when Yale had an lightbulb moment of absolute brilliance.  We had tried calling it and it was ringing, but going to voicemail but at least it had some juice left.  He logged into the house wifi router and could see the phone’s MAC ID!  And, even better, when you called it, the wifi on that device activated, which meant the device was somewhere IN the house and connected quite happily to the wifi!!!  Big sigh of relief… won’t have to blame desire for frozen cokes after all.

how to find lost iphone

We checked everywhere. The Small Child had Drill Sergeant Mom looking over his shoulder as he cleaned his room, but alas, we found nothing but dust bunnies, old Pokemon cards and muesli bar wrappers.  We cleaned and checked the kitchen, the living areas, dusted the bookcases, went through the kitchen cupboards – looked everywhere.  And somewhere in among this hunting for the illusive iPhone, the Small Child told me he had a dream the night before that someone had taken his phone and broken it.  Which ordinarily wouldn’t mean diddly squat… except that, well, his mother had a known propensity for frequent sleep walking around his age and it now seemed very likely that the Small Child had gotten up in the middle of the night to put his precious iPhone in that most dreaded of locations known as ‘somewhere safe’.  Bugger!  The poor child was forced to give up all his secret hiding spots where he keeps his childhood ‘treasures’ as we continued the hunt for the phone. But alas, the curse’d iPhone was no where to be found.

We searched high and low for this thing (well Mr K and Yale searched ‘high’ and the Small Child and myself searched ‘low’).  We even called in backup to try and help locate it thinking that more eyes on the problem would help. We knew it was on the network, we knew it was on silent (school policy), and we knew the battery was probably running low by this point.  Executive decision made to wait until nightfall, turn off every light in the house and call it hoping that the touchscreen lighting up would be enough to give away it’s location.

how to find your phone no finder ap

If you’ve ever been on a long car trip with children then you’ll feel our pain here… instead of ‘Are we there yet?’ being repeated every fifteen minutes, we had a constant rendition from about 4:30pm – 8:00pm of ‘Is it dark enough yet?’  We eventually turned out the lights and took up positions throughout the house and called the damn phone again.  Convinced it was in the Small Child’s room, I vigilantly took up my post there expecting a flash of light… but no.  The plan did however work!  The iPhone that was previously known as ‘Steve’ and shall be henceforth known as ‘My Precioussss’ was located on the bookshelves in the dining room.  The exact same bookshelves I had dusted several hours earlier in our futile hunt for the Too Carefully Stashed iPhone Incident of 2012.  :S  Whoops. My bad.

I think there’s a few morals to this pathetic ‘First World Problem’ saga… firstly, maybe kids don’t need the stress of obsessing about expensive electronics, so we just shouldn’t give them these things, no matter how sound or well intentioned our plans may seem.  Second…hug an IT geek today!  We would have given up on the iPhone and perhaps even stupidly replaced it if we didn’t KNOW for certain it was in the house somewhere.  And finally, I wouldn’t ask me to help with the dusting if I were you… I’m obviously blind as a bat, off with the pixies or stoned out of my gourd.  :S

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Where’s Russell when you need him?

We used to have a dirty big carpet snake living in our roof.  Which apparently is not at all uncommon if you happen to reside in south-eastQueensland-  approximately 50% of homes in this region have snakes in their roofs according to Geoff the SnakeCatcherGuy’s anecdotal evidence.  We only actually laid eyes on him a couple of times when he had come out of the roof and was clinging to the walls of the house, no doubt because he enjoyed sunning himself as much as he enjoyed making the dog go batshit crazy.

snake in the roof

On one of these rare outdoor adventures we saw him hanging about with a huge lump in his belly, about two thirds of the way down his not inconsiderable length.  Having ingested a tasty mystery meal the relatively large food bump was no doubt stopping him from re-entering the house through his secret snake door, where ever that was.  I vaguely recall we were temporarily concerned for a small black puppy we had seen next door around that time… but the puppy reappeared a few days later and all was well with the world.

Azerbaijan Resident Russell

For the most part, we didn’t mind our resident python – we didn’t bother him and he didn’t really bother us.  On the odd occasion that someone was going to enter the roof cavity to do some electrical work, service the AC unit or run some internet cables or something, we would duly warn the potential victim… err… tradesman that there was a 6 -7 foot long python in the roof somewhere but that we rarely saw him, he seemed harmless enough and from what we could tell, he didn’t eat much.  Occasionally someone would come out of the roof with an alarmingly long snakeskin they’d found up there which the Small Child always thought was kinda cool.  It was actually strangely comforting to hear him slithering about up there and we affectionately came to know him as Russell (for obvious reasons).

Well, for reasons unknown, Russell decided to leave Azerbaijan a little while back without even saying goodbye, which personally I feel was very rude after nearly a decade of free room and board!  The downside of Russell moving out is that his comforting slithering in the roof has been replaced with disconcerting scritchings.  Russell our resident tradesman taunter was also Russell our resident rodent catcher.  So Azerbaijan without Russell is now Azerbaijan with mice!  Donc, le chat est sur la chaise, le sange est sur la branche, et la souris est dans la roof!

Instant knowledge, instant gratification and instant action.

EVERYTHING is getting quicker.  Cars, trains, commuting and travel are getting quicker.  Communications, computers, and the internets are getting quicker.  Nearly everything in our increasingly busy days feels like they it’s getting quicker.  We are living in an age of instant knowledge, instant gratification and instant action.

This being the case, why does it seem those new fandangled fluorescent light bulbs we are all being encouraged to switch to didn’t get the memo stating the general public’s expectation of instant action?  For some reason those asinine fluoro light bulbs seem to be on a go slow.  I had one of those Smart house/electricity audits done at my house quite a while ago and they went through the place replacing tungsten light bulbs with fluorescent ones, ostensibly because they last longer and use less power.

incandescent bulbs redundant fluro bulbs slow

But no body mentioned that those fluorescent light bulbs suffer from shutter delay – you know, the lag between the time when you press the button on your digital camera to take a picture and the time the shutter actually activates and takes the damn picture?  How friggin’ annoying has that been for the last ten years or so on point and shoot happy snapper cameras?  Well, for some reason many of my fluorescent light bulbs seem to suffer the same malaise.  You flick the switch and there’s a ‘shutter’ delay before the light comes on.  And when it does come on, it takes its sweet time ‘warming up’ before it actually becomes bright enough to see.   So, if you have the stupid things in your bathroom, it’s just about bright enough to see your hand in front of your face by the time you’re finished peeing!

Now I ask you, if everything around is getting quicker and quicker… why on earth are light bulbs getting slower?   :S