Rescue Coordinator: Sharon Arkoff
Poor Bear was raised in a puppy-mill, and sold to a home that was not prepared for his need for attention. Frightened and sick, Bear never had much of a chance to flourish in his one and a half years of life -- until now. Realizing that he was not a good match for them, Bear's family asked the Foundation for help in finding a new home. Bear has been confined to a crate for most of the day in his previous home, but when released follows his humans from room to room in fine kerry style. He reportedly walks nicely on a leash, when he has the chance, and is able to meet and greet other dogs appropriately. Bear is quite shy, according to his previous family, and may have some health issues related to diet, stress, and confinement. Nonetheless, he is still a puppy, and his zest for life is just waiting in there for the right people to come along and help Bear see what a fun, safe place the world can be when you are a kerry blue terrier!
Bear was placed on 10, June 2010.
Subject: [KBL] Fearful Roberto's new life in San Francisco
Date: July 30, 2010 1:43:32 PM PDT
The story of most dogs who come through Rescue is often a long series of events with many hands helping along the way. They are all kinds of dogs, with all kinds of issues, or none at all - just bad luck. They all just need someone to give them another chance at life in a loving family.
Back in April I got an email from Linda Lee, a Foundation Rescue Coordinator, asking if I would mentor a family who had a Kerry, just over 18 months, who was extremely fearful of new things and sounds, and chronically vomited and had diarrhea.
The family had purchased the dog from an online line breeder, who they thought was reputable, but it turns out to be a notorious puppymiller, peddling 13 different breeds online.
They wrote of meeting Bear for the first time
"When we met the breeder, she had trouble getting Bear out of the crate in her car and when she got him out of the crate he just cowered in her car. She put him on the ground and he was so scared he didn't even move. Her stories of a loveable, kissy puppy that lived inside were obviously not true. He was not groomed, he was matted, and he stunk of excrement and urine."
I sent an half dozen emails to the owners, filled with information I thought might be helpful, but never heard back from them. I suspected they were at the point of overload; a job which took the husband out of town often, and a busy family life with 3 children. Implementing even simple changes in their routine may have been too much for them to handle at the time.
My good friends in San Francisco Kathie & Steve, had recently lost their 16+ year old Kerry, Sebastian. Kathie had grown up with a Kerry, so she had the breed in her blood. Sebastian had originally been on the shy side, and they had worked through that. At his advanced age he required lots of extra care; special diet, and more walks and potty breaks, which they were easily able to accommodate in their schedules.
I thought that they would be a good fit for a dog needing some extra attention. But it was not so easy.
The family was ready to relinquish the dog, but they were in a remote part of SE Wisconsin and we had trouble finding anyone nearby to help us in evaluating, fostering or transporting him to the Twin Cities airport to fly to his new life.
After weeks in a holding pattern, finally I begged one of my Kerry cyber pals in Minnesota, Mary, might she not have a friend or family member who could help? Her brother Jim helped transport Bear to the airport, so finally at the end of June Bear was outbound to his new life as "Roberto" in San Francisco. Kathie and I talked about strategies for making sure Roberto was safe during his first days when he was bound to be confused. Fearful dogs often bolt when frightened. We decided when picking him up at the airport, it would be safest to keep him in the crate until he was safely inside the house, before opening the door. When he was finally home Kathie opened the door to the crate, but he remained huddled in the back.
Hours later, when it was bedtime, Kathie decided frightened or not, he needed a potty break - it had been over 12+ hours since he was put in the crate. Although the crate was dry and clean - he clearly needed to potty. Steve & Kathie had to resort to picking up the back end of the crate to help ease him out (far less frightening for him than crawling in after him and dragging him out).
For the first few days he was very stressed and fearful. They left the crate with the door open in the family room, available to him if he needed a safe place, but he never once retreated to the safety of his crate, fearful as he was, he chose not to hide from his new world. When stressed his ears went back, and he did lots of spinning.
Also his tail was tucked; tucked tightly between his legs, constantly. It was tucked so tight that a week went by and he had a vet exam, and no one realized that he had not been neutered, he tucked so tight that he retracted his testicles! My pilates teacher marveled at the strength of his pelvic floor!
He settled in the kitchen and family room, his safe area. Initially he barked and growled at anyone who entered, including Kathie and Steve.
He also seemed unfamiliar with normal household sounds, and barked and growled at the sound of the refrigerator compressor, coffee grinder, garage door, and much more.
The great news was that he was super food motivated, which is so essential when training a dog, especially a fearful dog.
Roberto had a history of vomiting a diarrhea. When he arrived he would vacuum his food, unchewed, in seconds. So Kathie's strategy was to feed him 3-4 very small meals a day. She started him off on a diet of rice and chicken (in a bowl which was hand held) to help iron out any gut issues (other than one nighttime bout of diarrhea the first day, he has not vomited and his stool has been normal). They also started bit by bit to hand feed a small amount of kibble, and the introduction to fruit, eggs, meats and veggies being served at the human table, and Natural Balance roll - a high value training treat.
The hand feeding quickly helped Roberto get over his initial fear of his new owners and new environment. Over the next days and weeks he became accustomed to his new family and surroundings and was comfortable in the house. Within about a week, he was relaxed enough in the house to untuck his tail, and soon it was up and actually wagging. That is a remarkable turnaround for such a fearful dog. Adopters of some of the Puppymill dogs know how this is such an important milestone!
As he got used to the feeding schedule, he started to slow down when he ate, and actually start chewing his food.
He soon became accustomed to his supervised outings in the yard, except for the odd noise from afar. But walking around the neighborhood was a fearful adventure.
Kathie she decided to start Roberto with a 6 am walk when the streets were pretty much empty. He went along but his tail was tucked, and he pulled to get back to the safety of his own home.
Over a few weeks, while on that early morning walk, Roberto's tail came up and he was started to slow down and take the time to sniff and smell along the walk. Still whenever a neighbor's garage door opened or someone was out walking or jogging, he barked, tucked his tail, started his spinning and pulled towards home.
Roberto started playing with a few toys. He received a gift of a soft bone shaped toy that Kathie throws for him to retrieve, to help him run off some of his energy.
He also loves running up and down the stairs, checking on Steve in his office, and keeping an eye on food related activities in the kitchen. The stairs are another way for him to wear off excess energy.
Last week I went to San Francisco to meet Roberto myself. I was to be the first house guest, the guinea pig, I assured Kathie that there was nothing I hadn't seen with the Kerries I had adopted.
Kathie and Steve spoke with Eileen Andrade, a former Foundation Rescue Coordinator about finding a trainer to help them manage Roberto and help him overcome his fears. He had already had one session with is new trainer, so I followed the instructions that the trainer had set out.
When I entered the front door, he was half way up the stairs and barked and growled at me, tail tucked. I ignored him and went into the living room and sat down, avoiding making any eye contact with him.
For a fearful dog he was still very curious, and curiosity got the better of him and he kept sneaking in to check me out. I started by tossing a few kibbles on the carpet in his direction, which he grabbed then quickly retreated.
However after just a few kibbles, he was feeling brave and safe enough to take the kibbles directly from my hand.
Roberto very much wants to have contact with people, in spite of his fears. During the week I was visiting, we introduced him to five new people, all following the same protocol. Greeting guests at the door with a baggie of kibble, instructing them to ignore him and avoid eye contact upon entering, and taking a seat in the living room. As Roberto's curiosity got the better of him, we had guests toss kibbles one at a time onto the carpet, and then gradually work up to hold a kibble one at a time in the palm of their hand.
One of the guests he met was my 2.5 year old niece, Paige. Although she has not grown up with a pet, she had just returned from 3 week with my father who has a 2 year old puppy who she adores. Roberto gently licked her palm to free the kibble that was lodged between her chubby fingers. She squealed with delight and eventually gave him a big bear hug.
Roberto is a quick learner, and knew some commands; "sit" "down" and also lifting his paw to do a high five. I spent a few minutes with him on the "high five" and whenever he wanted a treat from me he sat in front of me and with a high five politely let me know what my job was!
Kathie and Steve like to have guests and entertain, and in order to help Roberto ease into his new life, they have scheduled introductory visits with a bunch of dog friendly friends, to help Roberto understand that new people are a great thing, with baggies filled with treats.
It hasn't even been a month, and every day Roberto opens up a little more and embraces his new life. He is still fearful and uncertain of new people, sights and sounds, and there are certainly many challenges ahead. But he is well on his way to a new life in San Francisco, with his tail up and wagging.
I was thrilled to play a small part in helping this young dog find a new home a start a new life.
Palm Desert, CA
PS did I mention that he is gorgeous; with the most beautiful, dense coat and he has the sweetest, most gentle, personality ever!