Happy Halloween folks!
Little Monkey and Mr Spaghetti Legs popping by to scare you!
I guess no-one will come Trick or Treating this year, with Lockdown.
What a shame – I’ll have to eat all the candy myself!
Happy Halloween folks!
Little Monkey and Mr Spaghetti Legs popping by to scare you!
I guess no-one will come Trick or Treating this year, with Lockdown.
What a shame – I’ll have to eat all the candy myself!
I went looking for a rescue dog in March this year, to no avail, just before our Level 5 Lockdown. As most of you know, we have had a very severe Lockdown here in South Africa.
My plan was to have volunteered at the rescue organisation, spending time with the dogs and getting to know them. Maybe I would spot my Mr Right when he arrived, but our Lockdown just went on and on and on.
As we have just downgraded to Level 1 Lockdown, I went looking again last week. Even on Level 1, there are still many restrictions and no volunteers at the shelter. I had to book an appointment and when I arrived I was stopped at the entrance to check I was on their list. My contact details and temperature were taken before I was allowed in, with a bright red sticker attached to my T-Shirt, saying, Screened! Everyone wore a mask and social distanced, and I sanitised my hands repeatedly.
I look on the shelter’s website beforehand and choose a few likely candidates, but you have to actually go and see the dogs in person to find if they are a good fit for you.
The dog above, Toffee, was estimated to be about 4 years old and described as having low energy levels; (2 out of 5); the kind of dog you take for a slow amble and then he sleeps at your feet all day.
Well, he came out of his kennel full of bounce, kept jumping up on me, pulled hard on the lead and was very young and strong! Much too boisterous for me these days and with a great deal of training required. I worked very hard to get these calm-looking sits you see in the photos!
I really thought, on paper at least, that Toffee would be the right dog for me.
I also wanted to look at Smart Boy, age about 7 years, even though I suspected he might be too big. Sadly, at 26 kg he was far too big and strong for me to manage; these days! Little Monkey weighed 23kgs and I need to go smaller.
Apart from the size, he is just the kind of dog I like. Street savvy and very mixed breed; just like my old Jack. We liked each other at once and he was more responsive to training, sitting nicely for a treat.
But I cannot adopt a dog that is capable of dragging me down the street, if he so chooses!
It’s not obvious from the photo above, but I am scratching his rump, which dogs like, not trying to get him to sit.
I walked round the rest of the kennels and came across Fluffy, who I thought had been adopted. I asked if I could see her too. She was estimated to be 8 years old and calm.
Now, she appeared to be fine, but I have been fooled before, by my collie cross Madam, so I was understandably a little hesitant. Madam was the most likely out of all my dogs, to bite!
I ask the kennel guy showing me around to take photos, so I can kook afterwards and see things I might not have picked up on at the time. Studying the photos afterwards, I could clearly see visions of Madam! My goodness!
So sadly, not this one either!
All the dogs I looked at coped well with people covering their faces with masks. I also wore sunglasses and a cap, so was even more disguised, but they dealt with it.
So no luck this time, but I’ll just keep looking.
My perfect guy, Mr Right, is out there – somewhere!
Since I wasn’t having any luck finding a rescue dog to adopt I decided to help out at a small local shelter run by one woman at a Vets. Volunteers from here have been bringing dogs to class to socialise for many years, for free. Our own Dog Whisperer helps the dogs learn some manners so they are more likely to be adopted.
I contacted one of the volunteers, S, and arranged to meet her at puppy class one Saturday morning. I didn’t usually go to the Saturday class with Little Monkey, as it was often more hectic than the Wednesday classes and the dogs were bigger and less controlled, but this was the puppy class, so I thought it should be fine.
I met S on the dog field and she’d brought along a one year old white Border Collie cross, Peaches, for me to take care of, as well as four young puppies. Other volunteers came to class and took charge of a puppy each. S went again to the afternoon class, with four more puppies. The shelter had recently rescued a pregnant dog just before she gave birth – to eleven puppies!!
I made friends with Peaches, who was anxious and unsocialised. The other dogs picked up on her anxiety and tried to sort her out. She was scared of the dogs, but would run up behind them and bite them on the bum! I spent a lot of time running round after her, correcting her behaviour and sorting out little altercations. She eventually started to listen to me and calm down a bit.
In the meantime the four young puppies were running rampant and the volunteers didn’t seem to know what to do. At one point the ring-leader puppy ran across the road of the quiet cul-de-sac, with the other puppies following it!
So I ran after them, but round to one side, to get ahead of them and herd them back to the field. Fortunately, our Dog Trainer saw them too and came to help. We got them back in the group, but the bossy puppy was still full of it, so I sorted him out with a power down; ie I made him lie down and be still, only for a few seconds, but it calms the pup down.
At the end of class I had run all over the field and had a face like a very ripe tomato, but S still looked cool as a cucumber! But it had been fun and the dogs had learnt to socialise a little better.
The next week I got Buster, a two year old male. Though he was smaller in size and quite sociable with the other dogs, he was full of energy and untrained. It is hard trying to get a dog to listen to you when it doesn’t know you at all; they run back to the volunteer that they do know. So again I did a lot of running around the field.
The week after that I got Rascals, also a two year old, but much larger, very energetic and very strong. Again, this dog was OK with the other dogs, but had no manners. We were doing ‘downs’ which is hard enough to do with your own dog, but nearly impossible with this kind of dog. I got Rascals down, but then had to help a young kid next to me who was dealing with one of the boisterous puppies. So I got Rascals down, then the puppy, by which time Rascals was wanting to get back up . . .
The next day my arms were sore and I couldn’t understand why, till I remembered this!
After morning dog class the volunteers took the dogs to an Adoption Day at a local garden nursery every fortnight. I went along a few times to support them. I took treats for the dogs and gave them some attention and of course made donations.
I wanted to see Cream, Peaches’ sister. She was supposedly smaller and calmer. I made friends with Cream and stroked her while I chatted to the volunteer who held the lead. The girl said, “Cream doesn’t like strangers.” Well, we were getting along just fine!
An incident happened while I was there. S had been walking Cherie, an anxious, unbalanced dog, out on the Green Belt, in an effort to calm her down. When S came back with Cherie and tried to join the other dogs, they all instantly started barking and lunging. There was pandemonium! Buster got loose and went straight for Cherie.
I always try to keep out of things, but clearly help was needed here! I dropped my bag on the table, told a few dogs to “Stop that!” (and they listened) as I went to sort Buster out, stopped him going for Cherie, grabbed his lead and handed it back to the young girl, then turned back to sort out the other dogs.
It is always surprising just how quickly a group of dogs can become a wild pack, but they can just as quickly subside again, if you sort them out with a calm positive energy.
Now the volunteers at the adoption drive were mostly teenage girls, I think doing some sort of community service for school. They didn’t know too much about dealing with difficult dogs, but they were there and they did their best.
I took one of the calmer puppies, Speckles, home for the day once, just to see if he would be a match for us. It is better to have an older established dog already in your home if you adopt a puppy, to show it the ropes and keep it in check. However, I thought this was a confident pup that I might cope with.
When I picked him up I weighed him, then realised he was going to grow too big for me, as he was already 17 kg at only 6 months. Also, on our first walk we came across two large, calm huskies and he was all for challenging them. If he hadn’t been on the lead I am sure he would have run across the road and tried to sort them out! This was a pup with attitude; far more than I was looking for. But he did have a couple of nice long walks and a fun day out of the kennels. And great news, he has since been adopted by a family with an older larger dog, where he is very happy. All the other puppies have since been adopted too, as well as Peaches and Cream.
Thereafter I took a dog to the Wednesday morning class, where I knew the other dogs better. I was given Zorro many times. He was about six years old and larger than Little Monkey, but quite a nice dog and willing to please. He had issues with other male dogs and a few tiffs broke out, which I handled. I even took Zorro to my house a few times, which he loved. All dogs in a shelter just want to belong to a family.
When I brought him home the first time, instead of running round the garden sniffing all the exciting new smells like any other dog, he stuck by me and wouldn’t let me out of his sight.
So why didn’t I keep this dog? He obviously loved being with us.
At nearly 27 kg he was just too big and strong for me. (You might be able to see this from the photo below where he is sitting on Little Monkey’s mat in the kitchen.) Also, he had quite a mixed-up personality; while he would fight with the male dogs, he was also anxious.
He attached to me so quickly that this alone could lead to problems down the line. He would have separation anxiety and want me all to himself, so might be iffy with guests or males.
All I can do for an anxious dog like that is be calm and patient. I ignored him when he was staring at me, but stroked him when he finally relaxed and had a little snooze. The next day I was exhausted.
If you think I am being too picky here, even our Dog Trainer said Zorro was not the dog for me. It is vital to get the right dog for yourself and your circumstances. I am looking for something a lot easier this time around.
Anyway, Zorro had a great time at our house and some nice long walks; all better than sitting in kennels all day.
I asked the shelter for different dogs to take to class; smaller, with less behavioural problems, but they kept giving me Zorro. They even suggested larger, younger dogs, because they knew I could handle them! But just because I can handle difficult dogs, does not mean I want to, as I kept telling them.
I always had a long wait at the shelter when I went to pick up a dog, and again on the return. The final time I went, I waited half an hour. However, the woman in charge was out at the animal hospital with sick kittens. By now I would miss dog class anyway, so I went home.
I reassessed the situation and realised I was spending a long time driving around fetching and returning a dog; a total 25 to 30 km. I was also exhausted afterwards and spent the next day recovering. So I decided to give it a break for now.
At Dog Class
One really great thing about being back at dog class was the amazing greeting I received from the dogs themselves. After Little Monkey died, I hadn’t been for several months. One after another the dogs would come up to me to say hello, in their own unique fashion.
I would look down and suddenly notice that a dog had left its owner and come to stand quietly in front of me sideways on. I stroked them and chatted to them, then they trotted away to be about their business. At some point each dog noticed me and came to welcome me back into the pack. No-one told them to do this.
Even the dogs that did not normally interact much with people came to stand quietly in front of me and let me pet them.
This was an awesome welcome back into the pack.
I can’t tell you how much this helped to heal my broken heart.
These little chaps cannot read
But their owners can!
I thought it rather cheeky to tie up the little dogs, actually on the Keep Off The Grass sign!
The owners were politely asked to move them!
Continuing my search for a dog, the next rescue centre I tried was just how I remembered it, when I adopted Little Monkey, Madam and TJ from there many years ago.
Everyone was very friendly and very helpful. I got to walk round all the kennels and go in those that had dogs I was interested in.
The first time I went there, I liked this dog, Blackie, and he liked me. But he was far too big. He just reminded me of my first boy, Jack. Happily, he was adopted not long after I saw him.
I also liked, Snowy, a white retriever cross, shown below. His story was that he had been owned by a gardener, but when the dog became infested with fleas and suffered an allergic reaction, losing all the hair on his back, the owner brought him in to be treated. The people here at the rescue centre sorted out all his problems, but the owner no longer wanted him back, so they kept him and neutered him, ready for adoption.
Like I said, I quite liked him, but wasn’t sure. I could see that his teeth were bad, which meant I was looking at several thousand Rand straight off to get them sorted out and cleaned. Also, he had had a lump removed when they neutered him. Although it wasn’t cancerous, it made me think there would be more in the future and also that the dog was older than the 7 years that they thought. Finally, he was allergic to flea spit, which meant he was probably allergic to other stuff too, like many Golden Retrievers, particularly some gorgeous ones I know from dog class. This would mean special expensive food. Later I read the updated info about this dog on their website and they said that he got along fine with other dogs, if they knew the rules, and if they didn’t, he would show them! Reading between the lines, this dog would be more work than I was looking for at this time.
So I was not totally committed to Snowy, but would have taken him for a walk to see. However, he was adopted while I was dithering – and I was fine with that.
I realised I was just not ready to adopt another dog yet. I needed more time to grieve for Little Monkey.
In the meantime this same rescue centre organised a dog walk on my local green belt. Anyone could go along, make a donation and walk a dog, if they wished, with a volunteer. So my husband and I went along to support them. We ended up walking this little dog, Chappie.
Though he was the right size, he was young, only about two years old, and also quite an anxious dog. You might not be able to tell from the blurry photos, but I calmed him down by getting him to sit and holding my hand on his chest.
He visibly relaxed, but he was using up all my energy! So he wasn’t the right dog for me either.
I went back to this particular rescue centre twice more, looking for two specific dogs. One had since been adopted, but this Border Collie cross, Miss Feisty, was still there.
I was so sure that this would be the one that I prepared our home in advance, so she could come back with us. I got out all the dog mats and bedding, food and bowls. I took a de-flea tablet with me and many treats, and in the car I put the dog towels, safety harness, lead and collar.
They are so accommodating at this place that they said I could take the dog home for a week to see how it went before deciding. We got to see the young two year old Border Collie cross in a special play area. I did all my checks with her; things I do to assess the dog and her reactions to me, such as touching ears, feet; and other things. She passed, and even if she wasn’t overly affectionate, that was fine.
So I was all set to take her home, when the guy helping us suggested we take her for a walk on the beach*. Even better!
So we put Miss Feisty in the car, strapped her in and headed for the nearby beach. She wasn’t used to travelling in a car and turned round so many times that she twisted her lead into a knot! Once at the beach I got her out of the car and tried to walk calmly down to the sands, but she was super excited and pulled a lot on the lead. They use a harness with a double lead, so it is very hard to stop them pulling with this, but I did my best.
Once on the beach I walked around slowly so Miss Feisty could sniff all the seaweed and lovely doggie smells. Farther down the beach I could see other dogs from this rescue centre being walked off-lead. They all looked well behaved and calm. I didn’t want to let Miss Feisty off the lead, as she didn’t know me and I didn’t want to risk her running off!
As the large German Shepherd crosses approached us, I wasn’t worried at all, as I could see that they were minding their own business and quite calm. Suddenly Miss Feisty lunged at them, barking, clearly meaning to attack! This was much worse than Little Monkey, who would have reacted and leapt in the air out of fear, never aggression.
I corrected her instantly by turning her away and making her sit. Fortunately, the large dogs passed us by, no problem, but it would have been a different story had they decided to react to the lunge! My husband said, “Well that’s all right; you corrected her and she listened.”
But no. It is fairly easy to correct behaviour such as pulling on the lead. Wanting to attack other dogs is far more serious, as it’s the innate character of the dog and would take a lot of work to change. Ten years ago, I might have considered adopting her (though none of my six were this bad). However, I am not prepared to take this on any more. I simply don’t have the energy. So it was a no to Miss Feisty.
It is both physically and emotionally draining to keep going and looking at these dogs. It exhausts me. Many people won’t go to rescue centres because they feel so sorry for the dogs there. Yes of course I feel sorry for them and wish I could give them all a home, but it is much, much worse on the outside, as you can read below. All these dogs are very well cared for. They are fed, groomed, given veterinary care, have their behavioural problems addressed and are oh so loved. This particular centre has a high turn around and finds many good forever homes for its dogs and cats every month.
I haven’t given up and still view all the dogs available on their website. So far the dogs are either too big, too small, too young or too difficult.
I am looking for a calm, middle-aged dog, with minimal problems. Every rescue dog has some baggage, but it depends what exactly, and how much effort and energy is required to change the behaviour.
And I’d rather have no dog than the wrong dog.
So in the mean time I thought of something else to do while I was waiting for the perfect Doggo for me, and you can read about that in the next chapter.
If you missed the first chapter, you can read it here – Waiting for Doggo!
ALL THE DOGS MENTIONED IN THIS POST HAVE SINCE BEEN ADOPTED. HOORAY!
*There used to be grassy areas around this rescue centre, where you could walk the dogs and get to know them a bit better. The townships have since grown around the rescue centre, right up to the gates. We were advised not to walk there any more, as dog walkers had been mugged. So the beach it was.
Another thing while I’m talking about the townships. Most of the dogs in the rescue centre come from the township. When you adopt a dog, you save that dog and also make room in their centre for another dog in need, which can be taken off the streets. They always say, you are saving two dogs by adopting one.
Sadly, the dogs they are rescuing these days are often severely malnourished and emaciated. With the economy so bad, people in the townships can barely feed themselves, let alone their dogs; yet they keep the dog, tied up in their yard, for security. The dog cannot forage for food for itself and slowly starves.
It’s been seven months since Little Monkey went to play with Mr Spaghetti Legs and all my other dogs; Lady, Jack, Madam and TJ.
I have been looking for another rescue dog. While I wait for Doggo, my toy dog sits patiently on his mat, like Pinocchio, waiting to be turned into a Real Dog!
There are many rescues to choose from, here in Cape Town. I thought you might like to come along with me on my quest.
My preference is for a calm, middle aged male, weighing under 20 kg. (But fate has a way of laughing at your plans and I might end up with a young female; who knows!)
LM weighed 23 kg and I had to help her in and out of the car as she got older. One time her back legs collapsed in the middle of the road and I had to scoop her up quickly and carry her to the kerbside. I rubbed her legs and she was good to go again. However, my days of scooping up 23 kg are limited, which is why I am looking for a smaller dog.
First I went to the rescue organisation from where I adopted Mr Spaghetti Legs (and Lady and Jack before him.) It was under new management with different methods, but the dogs were still very well cared for and in good shape.
However, all the dogs they showed me were far too big and strong. They were street dogs with mixtures of Pitbull, Boerboel, Labrador etc and way bigger than LM, even though I told them what size I was looking for now.
The manageress told me that dogs are not pack animals, so that’s why they were mostly kept in kennels on their own. This does not help them socialise.
Also, any clip you ever see on street dogs shows them forming into packs, round the rubbish tips etc. They do not go it alone, if they have a choice.
The whole experience was draining and I won’t be going back. I had been sure I could just walk in there and find my new soul mate, as I have done six times in the past.
But it wasn’t a total loss, as at least I got to see a few rescue cows up close!
There are other places to try and that’s where we’ll be going in the next chapter.
post script: Waiting for Doggo is a pun on the Samuel Beckett play, Waiting for Godot. Thank you to everyone who has been asking about my search for a new dog.
post post script: They only used positive reinforcement here, so the dogs did what they liked instead of listening to the volunteers, who were trying to coax them with treats. Someone who does not normally follow me may start ranting about this and I won’t be responding. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I have no problem with that, but this is a post about searching for a new dog, not dog training methods. Positive reinforcement is perfectly fine and I use it myself, but to only use it with no correction does not help the dog.
If a dog is jumping on me, scratching and bruising my arms (which is exactly what happened here), I am not going to give it a treat when it finally decides by itself to get down. However, while there, I respected their methods and let the woman with me sort it out. She offered the dog a treat and repeatedly said, “Sit! Sit! Sit! Sit! . . . ” It did not sit. I walked away and it jumped on her!
To stop a dog jumping on me, I walk forward into its space, tell it calmly, stop that, and get it to sit. It’s done in a second, and the dog and I are both happy.
You’ll recognise the photo above from my About page; My Tail Too.
Old TJ jumped on us when we first got him. He desperately wanted attention. I taught him in one day that if he stopped jumping up and sat nicely he would get instant attention. Thereafter, whenever I turned around, little TJ would be sitting beautifully, waiting for attention. I always gave it to him. In the photo above I have just returned from dog class with Little Monkey. TJ has missed me!
I learnt dog behaviour from all my dogs; particularly Little Monkey and Madam. After all, a dog knows how to communicate with other dogs far better than we do!
Wherever I am girl, I’m always walking with you; I’m always walking with you, but I look and you’re not there.
– Cat Stevens, How Can I Tell You
I walked down to the library the other day.
On leaving the property I turned left and continued along the road to the end, so I could see clearly down all three roads before I crossed; checking for dogs.
At each road side I stopped and waited for you to sit, while I checked for traffic.
Once along the way I saw another dog across the road behaving badly; leaping in the air, circling the man, chewing on its lead. He was a massive dog that looked like a cross between a Ridgeback and a Boerboel and was way out of control. I instantly thought to check you, so you would not freak out.
But I look and you’re not there.
I first heard Cat Stevens sing this lovely song, How Can I Tell You, when I was a student. A housemate had the LP and I would play it often when they were all out. It doesn’t refer to someone you knew who is now gone, but rather to someone you never met, but the sentiment is the same.
Handle every stressful situation like a dog. If you can’t eat it or play with it, just pee on it and walk away.
Thank you very much for all your kind comments on the passing of Little Monkey. She was a unique dog that touched all our hearts.
The out-pouring of love and sympathy that “Little Monkey Runs with the Pack” received helped me to deal with the suddenness of her loss.
Thank You All.
Goodbye my old girl.
May your legs be strong again, so you can run like the wind with a great big grin on your face.
May you be welcomed into the pack, meet Lady and Jack for the first time and reunite with your old friends, Madam, TJ and of course, Mr Spaghetti Legs.
The inimitable Little Monkey.
Thank you Little Monkey for all the years you shared your unconditional love and boundless enthusiasm for life.
You take a piece of my heart with you and will be sorely missed.
After a short illness, Little Monkey passed away peacefully in my arms.