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Weeble May Wobble But She Don’t Fall Down!

It’s Give to the Max Day! Since today is so important day (more on that later), I thought I’d share an update on my fave foster of the year — and maybe one of my favorites of all time!

Back in the spring, Teri, the Secondhand Hounds neonatal program coordinator, posted a picture of a tiny thing that needed help.

Something grabbed me on the inside and I instantly reacted. This baby was tiny, and sad, and damaged. We didn’t know how bad off she was, or even if she could be saved. But SHH was willing to try, and I wanted her in my life.

She was teeny, and scared. When Teri and I showed up for her intake, she would scream and flail frantically. She almost threw herself off the table, and it was nearly impossible to console her. She had been found at just two weeks old, abandoned in a box on the side of a Kentucky road. Our rescue partners down there had been working with her to gte her stronger before her trip up north, and now she was ours.

As I was driving away with Weeble that night, Teri cautioned me that we might have to make a decision. I understood that we didn’t want her to suffer, but I was determined to try.

We agreed to take it a day at a time.

Weebs had no control over her body. I immediately figured she was blind. Then, I started to realize she was deaf (a diagnosisI confirmed by banging pans together over her head. She slept through the clamor). We worried she had a neurological disorder, as she couldn’t walk in a straight line. It was painful to watch — friends who met her passed silent looks over my head, sure that this baby wasn’t going to make it.

My first goal was to get her to eat, which was tough with all her lurching and swerving. She was starving, but frustrated. I would take the goopy mush and smear it on my fingers then put them in her mouth. After I had crammed as much food in her as she could handle, she would pass out, satisfied.

She wasn’t safe in her pen: she kept crashing into things and falling. So I literally gave her a padded cell.

The smaller her area, the calmer she was. So I filled it with soft toys.

We made it through the first day. Then the next. Days turned to weeks, and she started to calm down.

A trip to the vet confirmed she was messed up, but we just couldn’t tell what it was. We had a theory (Cerebellar hypoplasia), but when I reached out to others with animals with that diagnosis, they disagreed. She was doing too well.

So we just did what we could to get her stronger, healthier, and, after a while, happier.

She started to puppy! She learned to eat (although never neatly. I called her eating style the “Stevie Wonder.”). She still couldn’t easily walk a straight line, but her paths became neater diagonals, versus wide arcing circles. I realized that a lot of her issues were likely emotional trauma. Since I rarely know my fosters’ back stories, I invent them, based on the dogs’ behavior. My guess is that Weeble’s first two weeks were fine — nursing away with her litter. But when her eye opened, and she started to move, the asshats who had her litter realized she was damaged, and threw her out like trash.

Who wouldn’t be traumatized?

Once she was steadier, we made a decision that was right for her but so very painful for me: she needed “siblings.” Our founder, Rachel, had a litter of puppies about the same age and we moved Weeble and another neonatal puppy, Cheddar, into her pack. Dogs need other dogs to teach them the ground rules, and I knew she would benefit, But I was as worried as a mama dropping her differently-abled kiddo off at school for the first time.

Would the other puppies accept her, or pick on her? Would she miss my guiding hand, or join in the fun? I let her loose, held my breath, and watched.

The other puppies bounded up with puppy joy, totally unaware that my deaf, visually compromised baby couldn’t anticipate their crashing arrival. She hollered and whimpered. Baffled, they backed off. They all tried again. She wandered around, confused. No one became immediate friends, but no one tried to eat her, either. Rachel gently pushed me out the door, and promised to keep me apprised.

The house was empty and quiet and easy at home. I missed Weebs. I worried. But, like any mom, I knew that she needed to spread her wings. And she did.

Soon she was in charge, albeit goofily. Weeble, once she got past the ugly beginnings, was so joyful, so grateful to be alive, that she just thought life was amazing.

As we assumed, after a few weeks Rachel’s puppies were adopted and Weeble and Cheddar were left alone (we typically wait a bit longer to put neonates up for adoption, as they have more issues to resolve before being go-home ready). So I got Weeble back — and her “sister” Cheddar, too.

She was bigger, stronger, more confident. Her time with “siblings” had worked miracles! She and little Cheddar, also a neonatal pup who came to us with her unique “cleft nose,” were continuing to teach each other how to dog. They were doing so well, in fact, that it was time to start looking for adopters for both!

Weeble’s bio was a tough one. I knew I had to work very hard to find her the right family, as we just didn’t know what the future would hold for this wobbly baby. She needed a home with another dog, and one where the people were committed to keeping her safe, and socialized, and willing to put in the work now and forever.

When Krista applied, she said she’d been following Weeble’s journey on social media, and had fallen hard. She brought her boyfriend Jason, who wasn’t sure they needed a third dog. He was a bit more cautious and reserved during the meet and greet, but it was pretty clear by the end that he was smitten, too.

A few days later, after a virtual home visit, we decided to set up a meeting with their two boxers, and, if everyone jelled, she was theirs. My worry with any dogs was whether they would accept her, or exclude her as “damaged.” The dogs were confused by her, but more because of her exuberant energy, not her wacky ways. A family was born!

I always want to keep in touch with adopters, as I get so emotionally attached to the dogs while they are here. But Weeble was even more special than most, and I was desperate for updates. Krista and Jason have been wonderful about keeping me posted!

Weeble is now a burly, happy, bull in a china shop pupper named Wobbles (I love that). She loves going to daycare, playing with her siblings, and cuddling with mom and dad (although Jason reports that sometimes she doesn’t quite know the appropriate times to be awake, and has been known to want to play at 1am!).

I mentioned at the top of this post that today was a special day. It is Give to the Max Day, a day so important to all Minnesota nonprofits, but especially vital this year. We cannot do in-person fundraisers, so today is a make or break it kind of day. Without donations, we can’t help dog’s like Weeble. We can’t save all the bottle-fed babies, the seniors struggling at their end of life, the thousands that pass through our doors every year. We need your help.

If Weeble’s story touches you in any way, please donate today. All dnations will be matched! Go to https://www.givemn.org/donate/Secondhand-Hounds and pledge anything — it ALL helps.

As a thank you, I’ll keep sharing these babies and their stories! I don’t know who next year’s Weeble will be, but I am excited to meet her!

Save Your Winter By Saving A Life

A wonderful friend recently asked me to write a blog for her company’s website. Christie has an amazing clothing line, Sun 50, that is not only fashionable and fun, it can save lives, as it is all created to save your skin from sun damage.

As the website states, “We created this company to bring hope and wellness into people’s lives.” Clearly, it has a spiritual connection with animal rescue.

I enjoyed writing about a subject that I am passionate about — just like Christie’s passionate for lookin’ fab and being safe at the beach!

After she published the blog, I decided to reprint it here, adding a bit more detail.

Perhaps you’ve realized you will be home more than usual this winter and you may be thinking, “now is THE perfect time to add a fur friend to my family.”  After all, dogs have been known to cure loneliness, increase your opportunity to be outside, exercise and socialize, from a six-foot distance of course! (although, TBH, dogs don’t go in much for the social distance thing. I mean, how do you get in a good butt sniff from 6 feet away?)

So how do you start?

First of all, figure out the best dog addition for your lifestyle and be honest with yourself.

BREED: Are you looking for a running partner or a couch potato? A brewpub mate, boater, or road trip dog? Visit dog parks and ask the owner questions or just observe. Visit websites like Secondhand Hounds or Petfinder to see what’s available in your area. Research breeds of interest so you know what to expect in terms of training, health concerns, behavior, longevity, shedding, etc. 

AGE: Are you ready to invest 10-20 years into this relationship? Or are you thinking 3-5 years is plenty of time? This will help you decide puppy vs older dog, and help narrow down breeds (small dogs statistically live longer than large breeds).

FINANCES: The adoption fee is just the beginning, folks. When you adopt from us, that fee includes spaying/neutering, microchipping, vaccinations, vet care, and any training/socializing we can do.  Be sure to review the fees for agencies in your area.

When you get them home, add in food, medical care (routine and the inevitable emergency or illness), training, vacation expenses (whether they go with you or stay behind), etc. It adds up quickly. If you are worried about money, do not adopt breeds prone to expensive health issues, like bulldogs or Great Danes.

How new is your carpet? Do you like to leave shoes around? Does your toddler drop lots of food? How will you react when your puppy pees n your couch or the kitty uses it for a scratching post? These things happen. And it can get expensive — fast.

YOUR TIME: Puppies require a ton of work on their schedule, not yours. Not a fan of midnight walks in the snow? Don’t get a puppy. On average, it will take a dog up to a year to house train. All dogs require time in training, no matter their breed or age. It can take time for an animal to acclimate to life in your home, and if you can’t take it slowly, maybe you shouldn’t take the plunge.

OTHER PETS: do you have any other fur friends at home? How do they feel about adding to the family? We insist that all our dogs meet any other dogs they might live with. They don’t have to have an instant connection, although that can happen. But if they dislike each other immediately, that’s not a great sign. And don’t get a puppy to bring life to your old dog. That’s not fair: most older dogs would like to chill out, not defend themselves against puppy teeth and enthusiasm. Got a kitty? Is it used to dogs? If not, make sure you get a dog that is cat savvy (we can emp test our dogs), or is a puppy who you can train diligently to be respectful. Make sure that your current animals have a way to escape the new ones if they need a break. Bottom line: if you are applying to adopt one of my fosters, I will tell you to put your current animal’s needs and desires first.

WHERE YOU LIVE: are you a neat freak? A sneezer? Dogs and cats bring saliva, dander, hairballs, muddy pawprints, poop. I know folks with allergies focus on certain breeds, and they can be better. Some breeds shed less, but all animals shed in some way. Don’t write a dog off until you meet it — and don’t assume a certain breed will mean no sneezes.

Is your yard fenced? If not, are you ready to take your dog out on a leash every time it needs to go out? Electric fences are controversial — they work for some dogs, but not all. Where will the pet sleep? Is everyone on teh same page for rules? How about training — everyone should attend training classes so you are on the same page. If mom says no to jumping up on guests, but dad greets the dog every evening with an “up, up” commnad, dogs can be confused. Dogs pretty much understand “always” and “never.” “Sometimes” is anarchy.

I have found that most adoption returns happen because the adopters weren’t honest with themselves about who they are and what they were willing to take on. It is awful when returns happen: the adopters feel guilty, the dogs feel guilty, and the foster who made the connection often feels guilt as well. So please: make sure you are picking the dog whose age/size.breed works best for you and your family.

Oh — and can I make a suggestion on what NOT to do?

Don’t give a pet as a gift.

I know it looks cute on commercials, but it is a living being. When we have folks that want to do this, we first have the “gift giver” get approved, then we recommend a surprise meet and greet. Make it a “date” if it’s for your significant other — maybe you bring them to meet a dog just to see what it’s like. Or you arrange something with the adopter — like a “chance” encounter at a park. Make sure the animal clicks for them (and the dog likes them back!). If you choose a chocolate lab, and it turns out your significant other always wanted a pit bull, you can’t exchange it like a sweater that’s the wrong color.

Ready to make the move? Patience, Grasshopper. Right now, EVERYONE wants a pet. The pandemic good news for rescues all over the country is that dogs and cats are finding homes at unprecedented rates.

The bad news for adopters? Adoption is suddenly insanely competitive. For every puppy on our website, we receive dozens, or even hundreds, of applications.  But please do not give up hope!

Here are some adoption tip highlights and recommendations for you:

  1. Read the bio and listen to what it says. If the bio says “no kids,” and you have triplets, don’t apply. If it says “must be in a home with other dogs,” and you don’t have one, move on.
  2. Apply quickly. Do not wait for your significant other’s opinion. Apply, THEN tell them what you have done. You are not obligated to adopt the animal, but it’s the only way to talk with the foster and learn more about the animal (our animals all live in foster homes).
  3. BE FLEXIBLE. If you insist on only wanting a 5-pound, blue eyed female fluffy white thing under 10 weeks old, you just made your quest exponentially harder. The more flexible you are, the more likely you are to get the right pet.
  4. Insist on something “designer” or “trendy” (like a Frenchie)? Become a foster. SHH Fosters chose the animal(s) they foster, decide who adopts them and get “first dibs” on their foster if they “fall in love.”

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Why adopt rather than buy from a breeder? You are saving lives! According to ASPCA, about 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized each year. While that number is sickeningly staggering ( that’s more than 4,100 per day, or 171 per HOUR), that number is down from 2.6million each year in 2011, thanks in large part to rescues and shelters promoting spay, neuter and adopt don’t shop.

Additionally, with a foster based rescue, the foster knows the animals from heath to behavioral quirks and is motivated to facilitate the best match for you and each fur friend.  It is also VERY difficult to tell if a breeder is an ethical and responsible animal lover, or just a puppy mill solely interested in profits.

It’s also waaaay less expensive. At Secondhand Hounds, our animal adoption fees range from $100 for an older cat to $1000 for a purebred, highly desirable breed puppy. For that fee, you get way more than “just” the animal itself:

“Secondhand Hounds charges an adoption fee to adopt through our rescue. … Adoption fees include the cost of spay/neuter surgery, microchip, de-worming, flea/tick preventative, heartworm test (for dogs and puppies over nine months), feLeuk/FIV test for cats and kittens, and age-appropriate rabies/distemper vaccinations. By paying this adoption fee, you are not only adopting your new best friend, but you are also allowing us to save more lives.”

Let me be clear: SHH is NOT anti-breeder. We are anti-bad breeder.

A responsible breeder has a waitlist and never has puppies waiting for adoption. A responsible breeder screens their animals for illnesses and does not breed litters with genetic issues. A responsible breeder will allow you to meet the parents, visit their facility and ask questions. If the breeder does not meet the above criteria, walk away.

Bringing a fur friend into your home is a major decision with lifelong reward.  While the adoption process may take a bit longer these days, I encourage you to throw your application in.  Your decision to do so will save a life — and might even be yours. Feel free to ask me any questions you may have — and please share pics of your rescue dog or cat!

A Lab(rad)or of Love

Last summer I agreed to take on four neonatal fosters for Secondhand Hounds. Lovingly dubbed the Sub Pups, these tiny yellow labrador puppies were released from a breeder because they had cleft palates and would’ve died without help.

The sandwich chain Jersey Mike’s generously donated to our organization, and as a thanks we gave them naming rights. Thus they were dubbed after popular menu options: Jersey Mike (aka Mike), Big Kahuna (Kahuna), Stickball Special (Styx), and Philly Cheesesteak (Phyllis).

You can see some of last summer’s blog posts here. We definitely had a lot of ups and downs with these babies, as we do with most of our neonates. Clefties tend to aspirate their food and liquid, leading to aspiration pneumonia. These guys were no exception. At 5 weeks old, they started declining. My life became a blur of vet visits and medication dosings. The boys struggled, but they overcame eventually. Little Phyllis, sadly, did not. She is the only foster I have lost, and it was so hard. My heart hurt for her, but in the end know we did everything possible to give her a chance. She was loved, and she knew it.

As I said, the boys recovered, and after a few months were able to go home to their forevers. Today, the babies are big boys!

Mike was the first to go, and he was dubbed Winston (look for him on Instagram as Sir Winston Labrador). His parents are veterinarians, and daddy has extensive experience with clefties. Mama and Daddy are overwhelmingly in love with their boy! They worried at first that they would struggle to connect, as they had just lost another lab. But clearly Winston’s winning ways quickly eliminated that concern.

“He has become the Michael Phelps of the dog world and LOVES to swim and chase a ball in the water, so we aren’t sure if his favorite thing really is the ball or the swimming part LOL,” says his mama. Winston is a big snuggler, which doesn’t surprise me (orphan babies get pretty spoiled by human contact, due to how much intense handling and cuddling they receive from early on). When they are babies, cleft pups drink from a “hamster” waterer, as it takes a while to learn how to drink from a bowl without choking. Winston got a little spoiled, evidently, as he still prefers his waterer to a bowl, and will only drink out of the water bowl if it has a little milk in it!

Big Kahuna is now Barney.

This sweetheart has been a godsend for his humans: “Barney is a wonderful member of our family! We can’t imagine being without him, and we are so grateful for him especially when we had to go on lockdown, he got us through that very difficult time.”

Like Winston, Barney slits his time between snuggles and playing. He happily greets his humans, and wants to meet all the neighbors (I mean, isn’t everyone a friend you just haven’t met yet?) 

Barney loves going on walks around the lake and through the woods (so many sniffing opportunities!), and he is learning how to play fetch. Of course, he usually just keeps the ball and the game for him is for his people to wrestle the ball away from him! His fave time of day might be mealtime: in typical lab fashion, he inhales his food in seconds. His current task on his to do list is convincing Tinker the cat, to play, but she’s not having it (50 lb dog versus an 8 lb cat!).

When the pups were dealing with pneumonia, Styx suffered the longest. His recovery dragged, so he stayed with me for more than a month longer tan his brothers. To be honest, I didn’t mind. He was such a sweetie! His adopter was also patient, beasue she knew she had a great dog coming hoe soon!

Styx hit the family jackpot: he is one of four dogs at his house!

His three siblings are Skittles, Daisy and Sasha.  He loves playing with them during the day and cuddling at night.

Styx (the only f the puppies to keep his name) also loves being around the two-leggeds, and has settled in quickly to his job as an office mascot! It seems all these babies came from some great snuggle stock, as all their humans report the cuddle is strong with these woofers!

As you can imagine, Secondhand Hounds spent a lot of money on these babies. All had at least one cleft surgery, plus emergency care during their bout with pneumonia and countless doctors’ visits. Thanks to generous donors, it’s what we do. We want these amazing animals to have the best life possible (historically breeders euthanize puppies and kittens born with defects like cleft palates; we are giving them another option).

Next month is Give to the Max Day. The fundraising event is always important, but this year it is critical for us and other charities. 2020 has been a YEAR, if ya hadn’t heard! We are unable to do our major in-person fundraising events, so if you are moved to see more success stories like these, please consider donating on November 19th. For more information, please click here.

Recently we got in a new cleft baby, a French bulldog who is working hard to survive.

Secondhand Hounds will do all it can to make sure she has a happy where are they now story this time next year!

Massively Mastiffs

Da babies grew up and became da toddlers — and now they became someone else’s dream dogs!

Alice and Thimble went home to their forever families last week, When they left me, the once one-pound struggling critters were 19 and 22 pounds each — at 10 weeks old. Gonna be HUGE!

Thimble’s adopters contact me all the time with pics and videos. She is now named Nora, and is a total daddy’s girl. She also has four human sisters — two sets of twins! She also has cat and dog siblings, so no worries about her being lonely.

Both dogs have continued their character traits at their new homes. Thimble likes to sleep (a lot) and sleeps under things as much as possible. At my house, her fave space was under my desk. Her adopters report she likes to squeeze into quiet corners for some shuteye. If that doesn’t work, she has been known to crawl under a pillow and snooze! Thimble lumbers about like a happy, over-served bar patron. Her squat legs don’t quite seem up to the task of holding her girth upright. And her wrinkles are getting jowlier, and the drooling has commenced. (Can dogs wear bibs?)

Alice is now Matilda, and just as sassy as ever! Some of the staff at Secondhand Hounds nicknamed her Karen due to her insistence to tell them her opinions about everything!). She has a big ole mastiff brother named Walter, and her parents adore her. Walter thinks she’s cool, too, but wants her to hurry up and grow so they can play together more safely. Be careful what you wish for, Walter! She is pretty brave, and jumps right into the middle of the action, whether it is meeting new people or greeting much bigger dogs.

When they were living with me still, we worked hard at Dogging 101. During the day, I played YouTube desensitization clips, and it seemed to help. They sleep through storms, and don’t seem phased by barking dogs. I took them out to socialize on walks and to events. They made their first bar appearance, where, of course, they were crowd favorites at the Excelsior Brewing Company! They and two siblings were the star attractions at an event at The Vine Room in Hopkins, where folks cuddled them up while supporting a great local business.

During the last few weeks with me, I had to travel a few times, so they experienced life in other homes. For a few days they slept over with some siblings, on another occasion they lived in a kid-filled house, and on a third they hung out with a big dog named Rosie. Alice loved Rosie from the get go, but Thimble was a bit cautious. By the end of the weekend, however, they were best pals.

Here are some other fun shots from their last weeks with us. I miss them already! (But not the pee. Or the poop. Or the drool…)

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