We’ve now had Tulip and Trillium, my little beach baby foster puppies from St Thomas, USVI, almost 6 weeks. People who meet them for the first time feel sad, and worry about how far they have to go yet. But folks who have seen them more than once marvel at the transformation!
They have had lots of doggy exposure. We have had several canine houseguests: Ginger, a mini doodle, stayed with us for a week. She was more unsure of the pups than they were of her, but after a few days it was crazy play time!
A few days later, dog-in-law Monte, and former foster Lyle, both large goldendoodles, had a 36 hour playdate. When Lyle the Wild came charging into the house (he’s just a year old), T and T screamed in terror and peed everywhere. Three hours later, they were best buds.
Lyle and Trillium had what can only be called a connection. In fact, they were so keen on each other they made everyone else feel uncomfortable. Let’s just say that it’s a good thing they are both fixed. Those would’ve been some weird looking puppies!
While they still aren’t cuddly lap dogs, we can get some good scratches and pets in. Trillium especially will allow belly rubs. We think she is more used to being held, as we had to give her eye drops twice a day for a minor eye infection. After a few days of chasing her about, she gave up and let us pick her up. We made sure to give lots of lovies when we did it, and rewarded her with whipped cream when done. So now she is more likely to allow contact, even if she isn’t always relaxed. We decided to start “force” cuddling Tulip more, to see if we can convince her that human contact is a good thing. Hopefully in a few days she will be better about it. But right now she cowers with terror, and we have to really make it worth her while (lots of ear scratches, belly rubs, and cheese).
On the training front, we are spending more time outside. They love being there, but hate getting there (ie: being leashed and carried outside). They need to start recognizing that the reward is greater than the punishment, lol. Many dogs are skittish on leashes, especially at the beginning. I don’t want to force too much, as I don’t want to create future leash aggression issues. So as much as I’d like to take them for a walk, I don’t think they are there yet.
In the meantime, we have had several meet and greets. All guests are handed a baggy of kibble to toss around like breadcrumbs for pigeons. The first time someone came to the house, they barked insanely and it took a really long time for them to accept the human. But each time someone comes over, the pups take less and less time to warm up to them. Mind you, they aren’t coming up to visitors for physical contact, but they will take food out of patient hands!
I had two good adopters back out. One family’s circumstances changed during the process, and they weren’t going to be able to give Tulip the time she needs and deserves. Trillium’s withdrew when they realized that their busy city neighborhood would likely be too much for a shy dog. She has another good prospect, who has now visited twice, once with their dog. Monday I will visit their home with Trillium to see how the pup does with a strange dog on her turf. I assume Trillium will cower in a corner, and probably pee a little, lol.
Tulip has two good options right now. Like with Trillium, we did first visits at my house with no dogs. Last night, the first couple brought their scruff-muffin, Weasley, over for a how-do-you-do butt sniff. Weasley was more interested in checking out our yard than playing with the dogs, but that’s ok. I’d rather have a dog that ignores Tulip than one who charges up with even friendly enthusiasm. Tonight we are meeting the second adopter, who is bringing her dog Daisy. If this one goes well, I have to decide if I want to do round 3 with both or just one. I havean on paper preference right now, but need to see how the dogs do before I proceed.
Until decision day, we have a routine.
Their days are full of naps,
and more naps.
Keep your paws crossed that I will be posting an “adoption pending” pupdate soon!
I hadn’t taken on a new foster since before the pandemic, and I was itching for one. So I got two.
Not just any two. And not just from anywhere. We flew down to St Thomas, USVI, and brought back two scaredy dogs.
It started with an email to our International Program Coordinator. Did we have any contacts there? Could she find me some dogs to bring back? She was worried that it would be tough with the late notice, especially since we didn’t have established contacts there, but she’d try.
Meanwhile, we were on vacation, and I happened to strike up a conversation with a boat captain. He told me he was good friends with someone who worked with the St Thomas Humane Society I asked for her contact info, and reached across the aisle.
Did they think we could make it happen? They, too, weren’t sure. But they have a robust international program called Pets With Wings so are very experienced, and they got on the task.
The next few days were full of calls, texts and emails. Could we take cats? Dogs? Bonded pairs? Any breed restrictions? They were feeling us out, as they needed to know they could trust us. Luckily the organizer has heard of Secondhand Hounds and was willing to take a chance on us — and me.
When you travel with a dog to be adopted, there are lots of restrictions. May depend on the airline, and each airline might have different restrictions and requirements depending on where the flight originated. For example: I needed animals small enough to fit in carriers under the seat in front to me; they couldn’t be too young; they had to be healthy. So Rhea worked her magic in the Caribbean, and Taylor finagled from the cold, bold North. And Tammy met me at the airport.
Meet Tulip and Trillium, sisters (presumably from different misters) who were trapped as part of the island’s save the strays program.
The girls are about 4 months old, and scared of everything. Tammy was especially worried that we would try to rush them into acclimating, but I reassured her we would take it slowly.
We got all checked into our Delta flight (they were awesome).
The pups were drowsy thanks to a little Benadryl, and settled into the flight easily. We never heard a peep from them for the whole six hour flight.
When we got them home, I let them out of their carriers, and let them wander into the house on their own. Well, Tulip walked in, took her first right and found my dog’s kennel. Trillium frantically followed, and there they stayed. All night. No interest in food or water, and definitely not interested in the humans. When Stevie Nicks sniffed at them through the door, Tulip growled a little, but that was it. We all went to bed.
On our first full day with them, I began Operation Ignore the Dogs. When you have super skittish pups, they need to learn to trust you. Who knows what these babies endured in their little lives! They were not aggressive at all, but would cower whenever I tried to approach them.
They stuck around the laundry room (that’s where their kennel domain is), ad got busy catching up on what they didn’t do the day before: eat, drink, poop, pee.
If I tried to approach the kennel, they would press their bodies against the back wall and scratch like they were trying to escape.
Periodically I would come in the room and lay down prone on the floor, stick my hand in the kennel, and not look at them. It took awhile, but eventually Trillium, the black one, would do a cautious sniff — then a scurry.
The next day they decided to explore. First they discovered my closet, which is attached to the laundry room. That was interesting with its piles of unwashed vacation laundry. Then they expanded their horizons, going into the adjoining bathroom, then our bedroom. I decided to try something: I scattered kibble down the long hallway to the main part of the house. As long as they couldn’t see or hear me, they would nibble and follow the trail.
When in my office, which shares a wall with that hallway I could hear scampering feet, so knew they were getting braver. A peek around the corner discovered playing puppies! Things like that were big steps I knew If they felt comfortable enough to let their guard down and play, even for a second, we were making progress.
They discovered a dog bed in the great room.
Decided that was cool — but not awesome enough to stick around when they saw me. Back to the kennel!
The next day they decided they were obsessed with Stevie Micks. Not like, hey, she seems cool, maybe we could hang” way. But as in an OMIGODWHERE HAVE YOU BEEN WHERE AE YOU GOING? CAN WE TOUCH YOU? way. They would just flirt mercilessly, curling their bodies and lowering to the ground, frantically wagging tails and bowed ears.
Stevie thought they were weird. She kept escaping outside, which stressed them out terribly. They would cry and whine when she left, certain that the great glass portal door had swallowed her up for all eternity, never to return. I didn’t need to with the door when she wanted back in: the puppies would whine and scratch and jump around — until I walked over. Then they would sprint to the other room, torn between fear for me and lust for Stevie.
I started using that lust to my advantage. I’d put my had out for sniffs when they wanted her back in. Sometimes it worked, but rarely.
They started being naughty: dragging things from suitcases. Chewing slippers. Trillium realized she could jump on the couch. Tulip, a good 5 pounds heavier and three inches taller, wouldn’t get there for a few days. Taunting ensued.
We decided to see how they would do outside. We don’t have a fenced yard, so double-leashing was a must. That’s tricky, when they don’t let us near. But we managed, and out we all went.
They had a ball! Who knew little beachy babies would love the snow? Of course, the main quest was attempting closeness with Stevie, who loves to run and chase and knock puppies over. They were all in. Until, of course, I decided they had been barefoot in the snow for long enough. HWSNBN managed to grab Trillium, who screamed like she was being gutted. I used Stevie to lure Tulip in, so that was a little less dramatic but no less stressful. We have not tried the front yard since.
They prefer napping, anyway.
I have tried to get them used to the leash, by coating it with peanut butter and laying it on the ground. I don’t think they hate the leash — they just hate us getting close enough to put them on (and God forbid we hold the end when we do get them on). I’m going to reach out to the SHH trainers for advice on that.
We’ve had them now almost two weeks. Occasionally I can get close enough to pet or scratch them, but they certainly don’t relax when I do. I wish I could start house training them, but that’s just going to have to wait until we get more trust. I’d also love to get them outside for walks, but again, we seem to be a ways away for that. There may come a day when I decide to separate them, but I don’t think they are there yet, I don’t know that they are relying on each other exactly, so that may not be necessary. I am not ready for them to go up on the website yet: if they won’t let me touch them, bring potential adopters into the house could be traumatic.
I am not frustrated: I have four months of fear to overcome. I am sad they are missing out on walks and pets and cuddles, but all of a sudden one day it will click, and there will be no turning back. I know that they have lives of love ahead of them! And I know that if not for the valiant efforts of rescuers almost 2,500 miles apart, they would most likely have ended up with terrible lives.
So for now, I will continue to throw kibble around, and hope that one day they will look at me with as much joy as they do Stevie Nicks!
If you would like to save a dog or cat when you travel next, and live in the Minnesota area, click here for more information. If you are not in our area, contact your local rescue, or find a rescue in the country you are visiting.