Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye, 2009

Like most years, 2009 had its personal highs and lows. John and I began 2009 with two beautiful Greyhounds: Portia and Bingley. We celebrated the first anniversary of Portia's Gotcha Day on February 10, Bingley's on February 16. Portia turned 4 on May 5. Little did we know it would be her last birthday. We lost our beautiful Portia July 7, 2009. The loss was so shocking, it was the motivation for starting this blog.

November 20, we welcomed a new girl into our home. An intriguing Scottish Deerhound/Greyhound mix: Magic. She is well named, because she is an enchantress. Magic and Bingley are slowly getting accustomed to each other. Bingley loves to play. Magic, born into unspeakable deprivation, never learned normal doggie play cues. Bingley is sometimes patiently, sometimes impatiently, tutoring Magic in the joys of play. And although she might never match Bingley's exuberance in playing with toys, Magic is learning that stuffed toys--especially ones with squeakers--can be fun.

The original purpose of this blog was to make walking dogs on leash safer. That remains an important focus of Friends of Portia. But in dealing with all aspects of the unleashed dog problem here in San Diego County, I have realized that it is just one part of the larger problem that is the result of the over-breeding of dogs and an appalling lack of education about what is involved in responsible dog ownership among the general public.

The sad outcome of these problems is the suffering of hundreds of thousands of homeless dogs--dogs who flood our public shelters, humane societies, private rescues and breed rescues.

On behalf of Bingley and Magic, and in loving memory of Daphne, Zephyr and Portia, our "Rescue Dogs" who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge, Friends of Portia will devote 2010 to Dog Rescue Awareness.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

As the Beautiful Night of Mystery approaches, I wish one and all a Very Merry Christmas.

Bingley and Magic send their very best wishes to all humans who love and care for dogs and all their fellow canines. They didn't mention cats. I take that as a sign of impending Peace breaking out.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Brody II

I met Brody yesterday. He is a handsome, charming, nicely balanced Pekingese. His surgical wounds are healing and he is getting about the business of showing his new family what a fine dog he is. He has particularly ingratiated himself with the family's teen-aged daughter. Smart doggie!

Dog rescue is both rewarding and heartbreaking. It is wonderful to look at a sweet bundle of loveableness like Brody and realize that his life was saved by a chain of people who have never met, but care about human beings' responsibilities to helpless domestic pets. It is shattering to look at Brody and know that if a beautiful, pure-bred dog with so much to recommend him needed rescue, the problem of homeless dogs is beyond imagining.

Once more, a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who played a part in Brody's rescue!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Brody the Pekingese

Some sad stories have happy endings.

In a previous post, I mentioned an emergency plea for a four year old Pekingese who would be euthanized if no home could be found for him. His owners had chosen euthanasia rather than paying for needed eye surgery. Funds were found for the surgery, but if he had no home to go to, surgery was pointless. Fortunately, my friend and neighbor, Cheri--who already has two small dogs--offered a home for the needy Peke.

Sadly, conditions had worsened to the point that the Peke's eye had to be removed--always a risk with breeds with protruding eyes. He was also neutered during this surgery.

He finally reached Cheri's home this past Saturday. Many thanks to the Molly and Paula who made this rescue possible--and to Sandy who forwarded the email about him to me.

Cheri's daughters have name him Brody. A new name to go with his brand new start in life.

Brody has already been to his new vet. His incision had become infected and Cheri discovered a abscess on his foot. Probably caused by a fox-tail working its way through the skin between his foot pads. OUCH!

He is also underweight and will need to become accustomed to a regular diet of nutritious dog food.

It's still uncertain just what his relationship with his new pack members will be. Right now, they are gazing at the creature in an e-collar in bewilderment.

But every night, Brody is sleeping soundly in his crate in the bedroom of of one of Cheri's daughters. He seems to know that he has found a home where he will be loved and cared for.

Monday, December 7, 2009

In Praise of Adopters of Older Dogs

For almost three years, Footloose has been the first on the list of Adoptable Pets on the Greyhound Adoption Center Site. Footloose had lived for years with her human companion as they both grew into old age. She had a wonderful life. She ruled the house. Her excellent physical health was testament to daily walks and routine veterinary care. But about two an a half years ago, life for Footloose changed dramatically when her human companion required assisted living--and a Greyhound could not be accommodated in the facility.

In a sense, luck still held for Footloose, because every dog who is adopted through Greyhound Adoption Center will always have a home there if they need it--and a chance for a new "forever" home. But a dog as old as Footloose is not easy to place. And each passing month meant she was older and harder to place. An additional problem was that Footloose needed to be an "only" dog. Most "dog" people who will consider a senior dog have already opened their homes to one or two oldsters. Footloose's time in the GAC kennel went on and on. The tapestry collar that her beloved human had given her was mute testimony to the life she had once enjoyed. Most of us familiar with the situation feared that Footloose would live out her days in the kennel as younger dogs came in, got healthy and rehabilitated, and went on to "forever" homes.

THEN,this past weekend, luck changed for Footloose. A couple who has had dogs in the past, but is now "dogless" asked to adopt the 11 year old beauty. They may have a few months with her. They may have years. But they want what time she has left to be spent in a loving home. I assure you that more than one person has wept for joy for Footloose.

My friend, Dayonne and her husband, Charlie own a pet wash and grooming business. Along with veterinarians, groomers are the first to face the problem of homeless senior dogs. Owners die, become incapacitated, and their treasured dogs frequently have nowhere to go. Since I have known them, I was aware of about five senior dogs that Dayonne and Charlie have taken in. But before writing about it, I thought I would check with Dayonne for accuracy. Without pausing, she listed NINE senior dogs--three of whom are presently living with them--that they have taken in over the years. Pepper, a Yorkie who was 15 when they rescued her, lived to be 18. Morgan, a 13 year old Maltese when rescued is now 18, and Dayonne thinks, perhaps, this is Morgan's last Christmas.

Recently, Lacey, a 7 year old Maltese needed a home. Dayonne contacted a couple in their 80's whom she knew were looking for a dog to replace one they had recently lost. They rejected Lacey as being too old! I'll refrain from commenting about that.

But the good news is that Lacey now has a home with Dayonne and Charlie. She joins Morgan and Henry, a really adorable 13 year old Yorkie mix.

There are rescues devoted to placing senior dogs. But there are many more senior dogs in need of homes than homes that will accept them.

Many private rescues require that dogs they place be returned to them if for any reason the adopter can no longer care for the adopted dog. If that is the case, your dog will always have a place to go and someone to take care of them.

But if you have adopted a dog from a public agency or a large humane society or you have purchased a puppy, be sure to include plans for that dog in your will or trust. When we owned Soft Coated Wheatens, their breeder agreed to be their guardian in case of John's and mine untimely demise. We added a codicil to our will to protect them.

In the meantime, if you are thinking about a dog--or another dog--consider a senior. Some people are reluctant to take in a senior because of imminent loss. But you never know. Since Morgan went to live with Dayonne and Charlie, I have lost three young dogs: Daphne, Zephyr and Portia. Life is unpredictable. Senior dogs teach us a lot about that.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Magic's Story

Well. You can "know" something in principle without knowing the details for sure. That is true for what I knew about Magic's life before her rescue in July, 2008. However. It is one thing to know that back yard breeders in the California Central Valley and High Desert breed and keep sight hounds in miserable conditions, sell them for coyote and rabbit hunting to people who continue to keep them in miserable conditions, and knowing that the shy, somewhat confused, yet determined creature that you have just welcomed into your home, who at this very minute is sound asleep on the love seat in the living room--began life and lived in just those miserable conditions.

Magic lived for at least three years--and was probably born--in a cage in a backyard in the High Desert of California. No protection from the heat. No protection from the cold. No veterinarian care. Bred, for certain once, but possibly repeatedly from her first season. Her only human interaction was with a rough man who cared nothing for her or her well being.

Enter Nancy. Nancy is a Rescuer. Over the years, she has purposely maintained cordial relationships with people like Magic's original owner. Nancy's purpose is to be available when one of these backyard breeders decides that he wants to reduce his pack. Because Nancy refrains from "sharing" her true feelings about his little enterprise, he calls her to take the dog or dogs he wants to get rid of instead of shooting them or turning them loose to fend for themselves in the desert.

Nancy is one of a number of volunteers associated with Greyhound Adoption Center in San Diego County. Not every Greyhound Rescue could or would have accepted a dog like Magic. Most rescued Greyhounds are ex-racers. And as many challenges as ex-racers present, there are some aspects of their early life that make it possible for smaller rescues to work with them. Racing Greyhounds are socialized and acclimated to human touch from puppy-hood. They are accustomed to living in a kennel and being turned out at regular times to relieve themselves. These factors provide sufficient predictability that a small rescue can use foster homes to care for dogs before placement.

But predictability is not a common characteristic among sight hounds rescued from backyard breeders. First, many of these dogs are mixed breeds--Magic is probably a Scottish Deerhound/Greyhound cross--which introduces more variation in size and temperament. Then, there is rarely positive socialization with humans. Many of these dogs have learned to avoid human contact whenever possible. Their cages represent painful confinement, not a place of safety and retreat. And their health problems can be multiple and exotic. These are the dogs who are most likely to be hosts to really awful parasites. So it is not surprising that few Greyhound Rescues can accept the challenges they bring.

Fortunately for Magic, Nancy was able to bring her to Greyhound Adoption Center, which has commodious kennel facilities, fostering home options--and a truly outstanding sight hound veterinarian on call, who sees and treats all of the dogs. Before Magic came to live with us, she had been the beneficiary of Greyhound Adoption Center's full menu of rehabilitation services for more than a year. I am always struck by how much care, how many resources, how much patience is needed to even begin to correct the results of negligence--and, indeed, cruelty--that is inflicted on domestic pets.

Magic's chance for a happy, normal dog's life began the day Nancy removed Magic, two of her puppies, and the puppies' father from the Dog Hell they inhabited and brought them to the Greyhound Adoption Center kennel in Dehesa.

It was just the beginning. More of that later. But today, from Magic--and from John and me, and Bingley, too, a big Thank You to Nancy. Without your courage and intervention.... I don't want to think about it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Today, Magic has been with us for twelve days. She has already made a permanent place for herself in our hearts.

As I have hinted and plan to discuss at greater length, adopting a rescued dog is very different from purchasing a puppy from a responsible breeder of pure bred dogs. Many variables are thrown into the mix which affect the dog's behavior and therefore its adjustment to your home.

Magic was rescued in July of 2008. Given her unique background, she found kenneling difficult. And so, for the past six months, she was fostered by a loving lady and her daughter who understand sight hounds. Magic was very attached to her foster parents, but her foster mother believed that being a member of a much smaller pack would be best for Magic, and so she persisted in finding that home for her.

As I type, Magic is sleeping on the love seat across the room from me. In the past twelve days, she has learned a very different way of life from what she had adjusted to in her foster home. A different schedule. Different food. (Because of Bingley's chronic tummy trouble, only prescription dog food can be fed to our dogs. We cannot risk his eating other food from another dog's bowl.) Daily walks. A man in the house. And, most importantly for Magic, I suspect, coming to terms with just one dog, who knows the ropes and, since Portia's death, had our house as his kingdom.

There have been many "firsts". The first time I left a room and Magic did not feel the need to follow me. The first time she settled down to rest someplace other than on the fleece mat in the living room--the last room where she had seen her foster mom. The first time she made the connection between going for a walk and eliminating. And last night, the first time, she walked into our bedroom at bedtime without being tricked or cajoled, curled up on her bed, and went to sleep.

Welcome to our home, Magic.