Saving the Blues

It’s hard not to be human.

By that I mean, we humans are so flawed, so imperfect and can be so judgmental but the very foundation of Pets For Life is to put aside our judgment, our prejudice and remember love isn’t measured by the riches you can bestow on your dog but it is our common bond between the volunteers and the public who will stand in line –in the rain- for hours to have their dog vaccinated. The majority of these dogs had never seen a Veterinarian, had not ever been vaccinated. Some dogs were filthy and smelly and were on leashes made of rope, but in they came with their proud and grateful owners. This series is not about blame. It’s about hope and caring and love.

Approximately a month after the PFL Clinic, I happened to be perusing the Animal Care and Control page of lost dogs and came upon Cujo’s picture. 

  

If you had come up to me on the street 5 minutes before that and asked the names of the two blue pit bulls from the clinic I would have known immediately who you were asking about but I wouldn’t have been able to remember their names. I knew it was “our” Cujo the moment I set eyes on the picture and immediately contacted our Pets for Life coordinator to see if she could get the scoop and the following day Lucky’s picture joined the website. “Our” blue PFL dogs were on stray hold at Animal Care and Control but their owners had been contacted and indicated that they would be in shortly to reclaim. Whew.

Then days passed. And another. And then the weekend.

“Our” dogs showed up at ACC during an especially heavy week of Pit Bull intake which decreased their odds. ACC already had two pit bull ambassadors and the third qualifier went to The Pit Bull Coalition who was beyond full, the SPCA was full and had at least two pittie types. The reports coming from ACC were that Lucky and Cujo were staff favorites, which was a plus. Finally on Monday I was in full on panic mode but tried to keep it together. Stray hold was up. I contacted our long suffering ED at SPCA and hysterically spewed rationally updated her about Lucky and Cujo. It turns out that the day they were called by ACC, one of the owners showed up at SPCA trying to reclaim both dogs and after the confusion in locations was straightened out, she left indicating she would head to the correct location.

So on D-Day, we were trying to piece all of this together. The dogs went stray, the owner came to the wrong location to reclaim, did not show up at the correct location but gave every indication that they would do so. On Tuesday emails began flying between SPCA and ACC: could the Blues just have another day or so to try and locate the owners again? If the delay was in the reclaim fee, we would cover that to ensure these dogs went back to their homes. We would do whatever it takes to keep these dogs in their homes, but eventually something had to give. Phone calls to the owners went unreturned then finally the phone line was disconnected. The Blues had both passed their evaluations and were now biding their time waiting for a break. As it turned out, on Wednesday I was pulling Bitsy from ACC to take to her foster home and upon inquiring about the Blues was informed that they had been “tagged” by SPCA. Regardless of how rational our conversations were and how much Jessica and I assured each other that we couldn’t save them all, she saved these two. 

  

By Friday they were ensconced in the SPCA and ready for the next steps: spay/neuter and adoption.

Pets for Life and the Blues

The problem I have with my own social media is that I hesitate to inundate people with the same info over and over again on each outlet and that I forget that there are those folks who only follow along on certain outlets so there are “holes” in my info sharing. Case in point is that I wanted to reference our Pets for Life clinic in June for some posts this week only to find that I never did blog about it.

Last year, our shelter director asked me if I’d like to attend a Pets for Life seminar in Detroit with one of the shelter staff and that seminar really struck a cord. This initiative which is about serving those pets who live in underserved parts of our community and assisting the people who love them. I’ve loved volunteering at our Pet food Pantry and this initiative not only dovetailed nicely with that, it really amplified everything that we’d be able to offer folks.

This Spring, in conjunction with the staff at H.O.P.E. for Animals, our low cost spay-neuter clinic, the Allen County SPCA began making plans for a free clinic to be held in June. Having pooled our resources, we found that we’d be able to offer Rabies, distemper, microchips, ID tags, flea treatments, collars, food, leashes, some nail trims and offer information about spay and neuter. After months of planning the morning of the clinic dawned to a torrential storm that brought down mighty trees all over the city. Would we cancel? Would we reschedule? We had local Veterinarians and Vet Techs volunteering their time, regular volunteers ready, premeasured vaccinations in the fridge and finally, lines of citizens beginning to form in the miserable drizzle that continued after the storm swept through. Lines of dogs and the people who love them ready to receive that much needed dose of vaccines. With some quick thinking and arranging, the clinic proceeded as planned. Dogs of all shapes and sizes received their chips and vaccines while their owners received food and supplies if needed and rather than feeling tired or daunted by the lines, each new little paw that walked through the door gave me that much more energy and sense of purpose.

Photo credit Allen County SPCA

Naturally there were Pit Bulls through the doors, but there were so many dogs of all shapes and sizes that were truly reflective of a diversity of taste in our community. Most were well behaved and those who were slightly less socialized were brought in separately and given all respect, consideration and space. Thankfully those owners waited their turn in line and upon reaching registration were given the instructions on how and where to bring in their dog who was given the works in the comfortable space off the lobby.

Photo by Allen County SPCA

And then we met the Blues.

I wasn’t the parking lot greeter, so I didn’t hear the whole story at the beginning, but two women came to the line who had literally just come to own two pit bulls 30 minutes before arriving and arrived at nearly the end of the clinic. They had acquired these two dogs from a neighbor or something and remembered hearing of our free clinic, so loaded the dogs in the car and headed over. Not knowing the dogs or their personalities, the ladies secured their spot in line and when it was their turn, I accompanied them to get the first of the two dogs. The male, named Cujo came out first. He was a calm “little” blue hippo who was unsure about what all was occurring, but stood stoically for his shots and chip. Upon his release, we tried to guide him down the exit hallway but he dug in and wouldn’t budge. I asked the volunteer to open the door so that Cujo could see that it was a “good” hallway and out to the parking lot he trotted lumbered.

 

With Cujo taken care of I returned for Lucky. The young female had a large gash on her hind leg so I carried her to the clinic for her turn and along with her vaccines and chip, the docs set her up with some healing salve and told the owner to bring her to HOPE the following week for a check up. The two ladies told us they were first time dog owners and we all ooh’d and ah’d over how exceptionally sweet the two dogs were and that while Lucky certainly was lucky, Cujo definitely needed a new name. Many of the collars and all of the leashes were gone, so I ran to the pittie van to ransack my supply and came up with two leashes and a collar as well as a couple of bowls. From the clinic, we found a suitable collar, a full 30 pound bag of food and the offer of a crate if they’d come back for it. The little group left with all of that as well as my personal card and that of the Fort Wayne Pit Bull Coalition so that if they needed anything they could reach out and we’d be there.

Nearly exactly 30 days later, my heart sank to see Cujo’s picture on the stray site at Animal Care and Control. Come back as we explore the journey of these two blue dogs.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way From the Front

The end of July and the beginning of  August are definitely times for reflection around here.  Two years ago a happy little “scruffian” bound into our lives and never left.  Once we decide he was going to stay with us, we had such big plans for our Julius.  He would be the ambassador that Ray didn’t want to be and he would open hearts and minds just with his sweet, open  demeanor.  Well on the way to that were some stumbling blocks like this and many more  instances of the same ilk.

Chewbacca.  

Julius started going to Dayplay mostly because whenever he’d see a dog he would go apeshitcrazy nuts to play with them.  We figured playing with a multitude of dogs on a weekly basis would cure that, but not so much.  I guess the bonus was that in the Vet’s office we usually don’t have to wait because they like to bring him in to a room quickly.  Go figure.  Then we thought that Pack Walk would  be a good way to get him used to being in a crowd of dogs without needing to be all up in everyone’s business.  After a full year, I’d say that is beginning to happen.

Leader of the Pack

Over the course of the past year, I have been going round and round about Julius and his need to be in the lead.  I don’t really believe that he wants to be “leader of the pack” as much as if he sees a dog he wants to be with that dog, so following just made him strain that much more. I was often told, he has to learn sometime that he can’t always be in front.  On one had I agreed and yet on the other hand I thought why does he have to learn that?  Was there a hidden agenda?  What  if he never learned that?

Growing Up

Well a funny thing happened to my ambassador/not ambassador dog.  He became a Foster Step Father and his behavior and demeanor grew to accommodate his new status.  Although the staff at day play always remark on how “appropriate” he is, it was wonderous to see him in action with not only the Sugar Babies, but also with Sugar herself.  He was the self appointed guardian of all things and even kept a watchful eye on his “big brother” Ray to ensure proper behavior towards our guests.  While I found this new Julius mindblowing remarkable, I didn’t realize how much so until a recent pack walk.

We had invited the family of one of the puppy’s adopters.  They have a Granddog who needed a bit of socialization and like with Ray, the early years, the more full of assholery vinegar he acted, the less I was inclined to socialize him until it became a downward spiral.

Backseat

So this handsome dog, Diesel, brought his family to pack walk and after the first five minutes there my heart went out to the family.  I had been there so many times already with Julius.  The jumping, the screaching, the all out shenanigans and the tears.  I suggested that they lead and while I thought to fall in second with our usual walking partner, I realized that if Julius could see Dahey he might be ok, so we fell into third place and had a very successful walk.  Diesel settled very quickly (faster than Juli ever did) and by the end of the walk, smiles were miles wide.

It takes a village..

It takes a village..

The following week, we fell into the same order and immediately all could see a vast difference.

The Change

While Julius isn’t done growing and maturing by a long shot, the difference in him is just astounding.  Recently I took him to my daughter’s house so he could play mediator between Sugar and the new foster dog, Bitsy.  Sugar  wasn’t a huge fan yet and through some play and supervision the girls settled into a deeper appreciation of each other but the proudest moment came when the neighbor’s little dog stood on its deck and repeatedly yapped but got no reaction from Julius (or the girls.)

Ladies love Julius

Ladies love Julius

The Icing 

Tonight, after taking Ray for his rehab walk, I decided to take Juli around the neighborhood too.  This is something I rarely do-walk Julius without Ray’s steady presence however it is impossible at the moment.  While he isn’t even close to perfect on leash yet, we did walk past several people, kids and at least 4 barking dogs and Julius kept calm and quiet.  I was bursting with pride and possibly strutting a bit. At one point, a neighbor apologized to us about his dog barking.  I wanted to ask him to video us!

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I don’t know.  At two and a half, Julius just seems to have found his stride and because of that we are walking pretty proudly. Happy Gotcha week to my Ambassador.

Do Good, Look Great

Though the Peace-a-Bull boys have a fairly extensive collar collection (maybe not like this one-but whose is?!) I’m always looking to add to it and if I can do that and give back at the same time, it’s always a win-win.

As nearly everyone in the Blogosphere knows, Sirius Republic is one of those companies that fit the above bill and I’m hoping that all of our real life friends will make that discovery as well.  I’m often told that the gals at Juli’s Day Play wait to see what collar he will be sporting upon arrival and it is rare that we don’t get compliments on the collars when we are out and about.

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What I love about these collars besides the adora-bility is the durability.  I have every single Sirius collar we’ve ever purchased and they look fantastic.

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We’ve partnered with them in the past to provide some embroidered Adopt Me collars for the pooches at Allen County SPCA and after two years of hard wear, they are still going strong.

Glamour, now Kya, modeling the goods.

Glamour, now Kya, modeling the goods.

Now you and I have an opportunity to help another great local organization and one that is pretty obviously near and dear to my heart.  The Fort Wayne Pit Bull Coalition is a local non-profit  which strives “to improve the conditions for Pit Bull type dogs in Northern Indiana through education, public awareness and by providing resources for Pit Bulls in need” and also as recently as this year has begun much more of a focus on rescue work. In the few months that I have been more active, we’ve not only adopted some wonderful dogs to great homes, but we’ve helped two families with compassion fosters, by fostering the dogs so that their people could get on their feet and provide all the necessities.  Yeah, I’m pretty proud of that stuff.

But what can we do?  Shop.

Head on over to the Sirius Republic website, build a custom collar for your beloved pooch (or kitty!) and at check out, enter the code RPFW95 so that the Pit Bull Coalition will earn up to 20% back from your purchase!  What’s that you say?  You want to buy a collar but don’t have a furry friend?  Head to Sirius Republic, customize a collar and they will embroider “Adopt Me” on it for no extra cost and you can have it sent* to the Pit Bull Coalition!

Remember that code!  RPFW95

Thanks for helping out the blockheads of Northeast Indiana while making your dog look Mah-velous.

*P.O. Box 13064

Fort Wayne,IN 46867

Vicktory Ride

Over the weekend the world lost a little brown dog. If you had ever happened to see him out and about, you may not have realized that he was a game changer or a trail blazer. You might have mistaken him for just another little brown dog.

  

To the thousands of people who followed him, Ray the Vicktory Dog was an inspiration and a true hero. A little dog who survived Bad Newz Kennels, was rescued and along with roughly 50 others helped change the way we see former fight dogs and pit bulls in general. He overcame numerous hurdles and became a beloved family dog. As we mourn the physical loss, we will celebrate the life and legacy of Ray the Vicktory Dog.

As it happened, we had been in contact with the shelter from which Bentley was pulled and had planned for another pull on Saturday. Allen County SPCA was gearing up for a large Tent Event and we knew from experience that by the end of the day Saturday many dogs would be resting in the comfort of their very own new homes so I was planning to collect five dogs that we had “earmarked” for the SPCA. When I arrived, we had to do some readjusting due to adoptions (Yay!) but quickly set about filling the crates I had loaded into the Pittie Van.

  

While the transport was previously scheduled, I couldn’t help but feel that this was a good tribute to Ray. What better way to honor the memory of a rescued and adopted dog who loved car rides than with a transport.*

In the back of my mind I was hoping there would be an opportunity to name one of these dogs in Ray’s honor, but it turns out that fate already had that taken care of. The little pittie girl who made the transport had recently been named Mya.**

I thought that was very fitting.

*While the sending shelter is doing really good things, they are less visible than the Allen County SPCA which enjoys a very robust adoption rate.

**The name of one of the Vicktory Dogs still living at Best Friends.

It Takes A Village

 *Update: Bentley got adopted today.  5/6/15.  I won’t pretend  that while I’m happy that I might have had just the slightest twist to my heart when I got the news.  

Sometimes the stories that mean the most are hardest to write; at least they seem harder to start. This one has been pinging around in my head for awhile and I keep trying and discarding the beginning, so maybe it will help if I just let it flow.

I’m wondering if this story is so hard to start because there are so many morals to it. Maybe it’s just not organized as well as I’d like it to be for the telling.

Some people shy away from adopting a shelter dog because they don’t know the dog’s history. In many cases, even if a dog winds up at the shelter because the owner surrendered it (rather than showing up as a stray) we don’t really know the history. We know the provided history only. I guess there are the people who have run out of resources and have to surrender and then there are those who just need to “get rid” of their pet. It can’t be easy and those people may or may not be aware that their words at surrender could possibly condemn your dog unfairly.

The first time I saw Bentley was in a picture that was sent to me on March 26th.

 

I had been an official Board member of the Fort Wayne Pit Bull Coalition for a whole five days when a Board member from a neighboring shelter contacted me about an abundance of Pit Bulls currently at their facility. We set a time to come and evaluate possible candidates for our rescue and I was the first to arrive so the Warden’s wife took me on a mini tour and I met the 6 pit bulls in house. Immediately Bentley grabbed my attention. In a large, clean pole barn stood two long banks of double kennels which could be partitioned off in case of a full house. Amid all of the barking and jumping on kennel doors, sat a large red lump with an impossibly large head. As we walked along the line, I was given a brief recap of the little bit of info available on each dog. The majority of the dogs were known by the number on their kennel and not given names, unless they arrived with one.

Bentley and Trina were the only Pit bulls with names. Trina had become the Warden’s wife’s favorite and then there was the large red lump named Bentley. Apparently Bentley was surrendered with nearly the equivalent of a death sentence: “He’s great with people and kids, but tries to kill other animals, including horses.”

When the rest of the team arrived, we began bringing the dogs out to the yard for assessment. The younger dogs, the under one crew were about as expected and pretty much all fun, all the time. The young adult females were also good but with a few slight health issues and all the while we struggled a bit to find a “neutral dog” for the tests. We tried Trina as the neutral dog and she soon showed that not only was she not neutral, but she might not be a very good candidate for …anything. She was returned to her kennel and not evaluated. Finally after all five were seen, the Warden’s wife, turned plaintive eyes to us and asked that we just look at Bentley. Just try.

Long story short, Bentley quickly became the star of the day and left us all wondering about his true past. He and two others were selected for the Coalition-when space became available-but should be left to the adoption floor in the meantime, just in case.

Days then weeks passed and the Coalition, always short of Fosters, did not have space and the Pit Bulls sat.

Waiting.

 

One month later, I received another message that the same shelter was full and needed some relief and this came at the same time that our own shelter was able to pull some dogs, though with the abundance of abandoned Pit bulls in our community, that type of dog as well as Chihuahuas and a few others was rarely “imported.” However, since Bentley had specially touched me, I was hopeful that he might be among the chosen to come to our shelter.

“What is the benefit of pulling dogs from one shelter just to put them in another one?” the Warden’s wife asked. The Allen County SPCA’s kennels are full of enrichment and some training for their temporary guests. Generally when walking through the kennels, one is greeted with soft music and otherwise silence. Dogs learn quickly that sitting quietly buys treats while jumping and barking brings nothing.

 

Bentley was pulled (have I mentioned how much I love that Executive Director of ours?) and quickly became a staff favorite as well as a garner of compliments from the Veterinarian’s office staff while visiting for his snip-snip.  Even on his first day at our shelter, I got the sense that he was happy to be there and he recognized his good fortune and saw his bright future.

Had we relied solely on the surrender information, and without a good word from the Warden’s wife, Bentley might not have been evaluated and certainly may have languished in the kennel until his space was needed. His big, sweet face haunted my mind, but had we not evaluated him, I might have let him go from my mind. Had he not shown himself to be a huge cinnamon sugar cookie of a dog, he might not have had a champion pulling for him. I don’t know.

 
What I do know is that despite whatever may or may not have happened in the past and because so many people stepped up and gave him a chance, Bentley’s future is bright.

But it takes a village.

Expo Time!

What a beautiful weekend it was here in Northeast Indiana. On Saturday the sun was shining, birds were singing and what seemed like the entire neighborhood was outside doing yard work. Sunday was warm but overcast and that lead to rain which lead to good nap taking weather.

 

I actually didn’t do either thing on either day because it was time once again for the Northern Indiana Pet Expo and as is my custom, I worked volunteered both days. Each year rescues and shelters bring adoptable animals and vendors bring their wares and we immerse ourselves in All! Things! Pet! for the weekend. (Because we clearly aren’t about All! Things! Pet! the majority of the time.)  

 

This year was a bit different because for the first year I split my time between two organizations rather than dedicating the entire weekend to one.  On Saturday I spent the day with the adorable handful of love named Benson who became also known as Benny Boo Boo Boo Boo Boo Boo Boo. (Recommend that his be said in your best Kate Hudson voice.)

Benson

Benson

The rap on him was that he was a handful, but staff had been working really hard with him on his manners and it really showed. He was a delightful companion who is probably resting comfortably on his own sofa right about now.

 

Recently, after a bit of soul-searching, I wondered to myself why I wasn’t involved with the local Pit Bull Coalition after all I live with and love Pit Bull-type dogs and am committed to helping them, so what was I waiting for? The truth is, the Coalition has had its ups and downs and until I met one of the Board Members on a Pack walk, I wasn’t sure how the mission was being carried out. After learning more and going through the interview process, I’m pretty proud to say that I am a new Volunteer and Board Member of the Fort Wayne Pit Bull Coalition. As such, I worked at the Coalition booth on Sunday where we hosted the rambunctious but polite Titan (whom I’ve met and transported already)

Titan

Titan

and the very sweet and slightly shy Bug-A-Boo (with whom I clicked immediately).

Bug-a--Boo

Bug-a–Boo

I was bemused at how many people mistook Benson and Titan for Julius and Boo for Ray. Both received applications and will hopefully be in their forever homes soon as the waiting list for those waiting fosters in rescue goes on and on. In the meantime we do what we can for as many as we can. 

We hope your weekend was just as awesome.

 

 

The Meet-Ups

Certainly not the least part of the trip is the people you meet along the path of life in one capacity or another so as a huge part of #TheBigTrip, I wanted to make sure we could meet up with several people along the way.  “Friends I’ve known for a long time but haven’t yet met” is how I like to refer to them.

Meet Up One

We flew into Phoenix-Mesa Gateway on Wednesday afternoon and that evening we were fortunate to meet up with one of my favorite (former) bloggers, Instagram Diva, Rescue Warrior and Dog Mama all rolled into one.  As soon as I suspected knew that we’d be flying into Phoenix I messaged to set the stage for a possible meet up with Emily, Jay and hopefully Mercy Pi the cutest little thing this side of the Rockies.

Luckily the stars aligned and after just a few snags we were able to meet at Beer World in Tempe where we enjoyed some yummy brews, a pretzel the size of your head and a conversation that was so instantly easy it’s as if we had been friends for reals forever.

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Dog people are the best people

Dog people are the best people

The conversation flowed as easy as the beer, but duty called as Emily and Jay not only had to dish up dinner for their Pittie Committee, but they were on the way to pick up yet another foster. Ah, the rescue life. What a great time we had, though.

Meet Up Two

This meet up was actually a combination of meeting a fellow blogger and of a Best Friends employee.  She is one of the authors of a Team  blog that I follow but she also works at Best Friends so as with many people who keep their work and blog life separate, I won’t reveal any more than that, but suffice it to say that it was wonderful to meet her and I hope our paths cross again.  If you want to read the blog, message me and I’ll give you the name.

Meet Up Three

Last but certainly not least, Kevin and I finally got to meet two people that we’ve “known” for well over a decade.  “Doc Holly Goodhead” and her sweet and soulful son, Spud have been a huge part of our lives for such a long time and it was simply awesome to finally get to give them big hugs.

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Again, it wasn’t like meeting strangers but rather like friends who’ve known each other for ages who have gotten together again.  The conversation was easy and the friendship is true.  If not for them we would have high-tailed it out of Vegas and back to Angel Canyon.

Have you had similar experiences with friends from afar?

The Vicktory Dogs

If you know me, you know that I’m mildly obsessed an avid follower of the Vicktory Dogs but truth be told, back in 2007 when the Michael Vick investigation took place, I really didn’t give much thought to “those dogs.”  I’ve never been a fan of MV, but hey, whatevs.  This whole dog fighting thing was foreign to me.

A common question at Best Friends is “how did you hear of us?”  and the pat answer for me was through the Michael Vick thing, but really it was this article that set me on a path that has truly changed my life.  That was when this gal happily plunged down the rabbit hole of Pit Bull ownership, rescue, volunteerism and became not only a fan of so many dog blogs, but of all of the Vicktory Dogs who have a public persona.

Part of my collection.

Part of my collection.

(Side note:  technically “Vicktory Dogs” is the nickname for only the 22 dogs who went to Best Friends though the other roughly 28 dogs might be referred in a similar manner, I use this term both ways.)

So immersed am I in following the incredible journey of these dogs and their families that I often forget (or it never occurred to me) that some people go to Best Friends for reasons other than the Vicktory Dogs.  Still countless others are completely unaware of their existence.  That’s just crazy talk to me.  Until I read that article about Mel, I really never saw these dogs as the victims, even though I was a dog lover.  I just didn’t make the connection.  That article was to change my life for the better and as a part of that, it was my hope to someday meet one of these small heroes who endured so much to come out better on the other side and who have directly effected a change in how dogs from fighting busts are handled.

I knew that there are six Vicktory dogs still at Best Friends as well as one that “works” there so it would be a pretty good bet (I hoped) that I would get to “meet” at least one of them but not in my wildest dreams did I expect what actually happened.

Ray the Vicktory Dog

Earlier this week I mentioned that we “encountered a special surprise” at Angel Village.  Ray was once and always will be a Vicktory Dog, but he now enjoys not only a home of his own but he comes to work every day with his Mom who actually works at Best Friends.  I knew from his Facebook page that he and his Mom walk to Angel Village every day so on Friday, our first day at the Sanctuary, after our tour ended we headed over to Angel Village waiting for lunch to begin.  As we sat in the car, I saw from the mirror a familiar-looking woman walking an oh-so-familiar little dog.  I may or may not have squealed at Kevin, “There’s RAY!” and then proceeded to freeze in my seat.  As they completed their business inside Kevin said, “They’re leaving, you better say Hi,” and I quite literally spilled myself out of the car.  I flung open the door, dropped my camera out of my lap and into the dusty dirt, spilled my purse and caused enough of a ruckus that Ray and his Mom stopped in their tracks, presumably assessing the crazy lady.

They approached and let us pet Ray who leaned against me (swoon) as I gushed we chatted a bit and then Ray’s mom said something magical and so generous to me.  If we finished with lunch early enough, we could come take Ray for a car ride. He isn’t so keen on leash walking with strangers but he will ride in a car with anyone.  Naturally we made sure we were done so that we could have the honor of driving Mr. Ray about the Sanctuary.  He definitely loved his car ride and effectively ignored his chauffeurs!

I’m sure you’re dying right now, right?

Meryl

Lucas and Meryl were court ordered to live out their lives at Best Friends.  Lucas was the grand champion and deemed to be of great value “on the street” so lived out a good life at the Sanctuary.

From Best Friends website:
“Meryl has worked so hard at Best Friends to overcome her painful past as a fighting dog rescued from the property of Michael Vick. It took a lot of effort, time and patience, but Meryl can now meet new people (staff members only) very politely. She can also allow new people near her octagon without having a panic attack. That’s tremendous success for a dog who once equated people with terrible pain and suffering. And now the student has become the teacher! She’s been paying it forward here at Best Friends. Because she has such good leash manners around other dogs, she’s been used as a model for others without the same grace. Meryl’s calm, cool and collected nature puts the other dogs at ease, so they no longer feel compelled to react when passing another dog. Meryl was court-ordered to live at Best Friends for the rest of her life.”

I was fortunate to volunteer at Meryl’s octagon and snap a few pictures of her.  I called her name and she faced me with her ears perked and a friendly countenance.

Meryl

Meryl

She is beautiful, fit and seems like a very happy dog..

Mya and Curly

Meeting Ray and being allowed to take him for a car ride was more than I had ever hoped for.  Seeing pictures hanging in tribute to Lucas in Dogtown’s headquarters was touching, spying Meryl through the fence of her run was very cool and all of those things combined could have been enough to send me home with an overabundance of the warm fuzzies.  But then, there was that one last volunteer shift.

Mya and Curly live in Dogtown offices during the week to help them with their social skills but return to The Clubhouse on the weekends.  The striking thing about all of the Vicktory Dogs was that they are all so tiny; none of them were taller than knee-height to me and I’m only 5’3″.

When I met the caregiver that Sunday morning and we talked about the agenda for the day and my slight obsession interest in the Vicktory dogs he said we would try to get me some time with them.  Just that glimmer of a hope was pretty cool and seeing them in their run was enough to make me happy.  Mya is short and stout with bowed legs and Curly is even smaller and more compact and together their presence could be mistaken for two little shy dogs of no notoriety at all.  When it was time, the caregiver, T,  brought them both out on leash.  His plan was that we would walk side by side and if the dogs didn’t seem too freaked, I would take a leash.  I waited outside with my back turned (non-threatening body language) and he stopped next to me.  Both dogs effectively ignored me as much as I struggled to ignore them so he handed me Mya’s leash and off we went for a walk.  The trail for The Clubhouse like all of the others I had seen have a short version and a longer one, so the caretaker decided we would let Curly and Mya decide which way to go and to my delight, they chose the long path.

I didn’t take any pictures of them.  These two brave little souls are still struggling with strangers and this big world and it wasn’t in my nature to disrupt them at all.  Throughout our walk, “T” and I chatted about all things V-dog while Curly cast backward glances at me as if to insure that I was keeping my distance while Mya stoutly refused to acknowledge that anyone was on the other end of her leash, so there was no need to look around.  I, on the other hand was on cloud 9.

Oh, how do I end this post?  How do I end this adventure?  Eventually our walk came to and end and we returned Mya and Curly to their area where they skittled away quickly and after about a 10 second try to coax them back, we respected their wishes and moved on.  I walked a few more dogs and too soon Kevin came back to collect me and though I shook hands with the caregiver and left politely, inside I was kicking and screaming and refusing to leave.

We were off to the next part of our adventure and  with but  a small exception were both wishing we were back in Angel Canyon.

 

In case you’re wondering, here is a list of V dogs Facebook or other sites to the best of my knowledge and in no particular order.

Ray the Vicktory Dog

Oscar

Cherry Garcia and Cherry Garcia 

Handsome Dan

Vicktory Dog Mel

Vicktory for Layla

Squeaky Jean

Little Red

Stella and Crew

Ginger Girl

Shadow 

Jhumpa Jones

Jasmine’s House

Gracie’s Guardians

Hector the Pitbull

Audie’s Journey

Hallie and Friends
If I’ve missed any, be sure to let me know!

Sleepover Guests

As many readers here are already familiar with Best Friends, it won’t come as a surprise that while staying and volunteering we also brought home a sleepover guest each night.  As you can probably imagine, this was yet another area that we planned for but also were not 100% sure how it worked, so let me share a bit about the experience.

Before we left, the hubby and I poured over pictures of the beautiful dogs that we might want to bring for a sleepover but without knowing which octagon they were at or how this all worked, we just tried to keep a mental list of those we may have wanted to “meet.”  Basically, you do need to volunteer in your animal’s area, so if you are volunteering in dogs you can’t take a bunny home for a sleepover etc.  Caregivers pretty much assume you’ll want to do a sleepover and are very excited to get their fur friends out of the kennels for a night.  There’s usually a list in the octagon regarding who is eligible to go, who has recently gone, what activities are allowed, ect.  For instance, we were considering taking Tig one night but although he can do sleepovers, he can’t stay in the cottages near the horses, so he was not an option.  We later also discovered that Dogtown HQ has a list of which dogs really need to do an overnight for whatever reason.  For instance, just as we were meeting Roxanne, she was snatched right out from under us we learned that she already had a sleepover date scheduled.  Roxanne was at the “top of the list” to go so it was awesome that she not only got to do a sleepover, we found the the next day she got to go on an outing as well.  Too cool.

So anyhow, the first sleepover guest was almost a no-brainer.  Lester and Michael were top contenders but in actuality, the moment Kevin  saw Magnolia, he said “my wife is gonna love her.”

Magnolia loves to walk

Magnolia loves to walk

 

He was right.  Sleepover dogs need to be “checked out” from the Dogtown HQ by 3:30 so don’t sweat that a volunteer shift lasts till 4:00.  It’s part of the process.  Once we decided on a dog, we went to HQ and received a sleepover bag of provisions and a questionnaire to fill out regarding how the sleepover went.  The staff in the octagon also gave us an extra blanket, a coat and in Magnolia’s case, some meds she needed to take along with a can of moist food.

Magnolia

Magnolia is an old soul in a young body.  She loves going for walks and never seems to tire of them but in the cottage she was all about deathing stuffies which I happily handed over and cleaned up one by one.

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Being the pro that she is she also knew that the expectation is that all treats packed by the staff in the sleepover bag must be enjoyed and not returned, so again we were happy to oblige.

Although I invited her onto the bed a few times she quickly jumped back down and at bedtime settled on the sofa for the evening.  Knowing the sleepover is all about the guest, we left her to her preferred sleeping arrangements and wished her a snug goodnight.

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Dogs are returned between 8:00 and 8:15 in the morning so when we pulled up to Old Friends, Magnolia who had been eager to be in the car, seemed disinclined to depart, so we took a quick walk while Kevin waited for the caretakers to meet him and collect her.

A polite passenger

A polite passenger

Sidney

Sleepover night two went very similarly to night one in that one of us fell in love with a dog right away.  Surprisingly it was Kevin who fell and fell hard for Sidney  (Side note: if you too fall in love with Sidney but don’t live near Utah, a generous sponsor has prepaid her airfare to get “home.”) but like a kid in a candy shop who knew that of the hundreds of candies on display, only one could be taken, I couldn’t make up my mind.  In the end, it was the snuggle factor that won me over.  Going for a week without a dog to snuggle at night was way to long and though I respected Magnolia’s need for space, I really needed to bring home a “proven snuggler.”

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Sidney who rocked the agility equipment in Tara’s Run and seemed so happy to take long hikes and explore was just as happy to “turn it off” and snuggle in the calm of the cottage.  The way both Sidney and Magnolia collapsed onto the sofa reminded me of something Corbin’s mama said about when their fosters really settle in for that deep, safe sleep.  These dogs are sleepover pros and although their housing situation is pretty posh for a kennel, it is still a kennel and you can really tell that they know: when we go on a sleepover we can totally decompress and just relax.

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Sidney and I slept cuddled together (the cottages boast two double beds!) all night and on the occasion that I woke momentarily, she was happy to accept a brief pat or an ear scritch.  It was heavenly for both of us.  We all woke early the next morning and Kevin and I suddenly just didn’t want to take her back.  We just agonized over the inevitable and Sidney seemed to recognize our emotions and played to them.

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We anthropomorphized all morning about how miserable she must be to go back but actually upon arriving back at her octagon, Sid jumped out of the car and into her waiting caretaker’s arms with an almost palpable air of “Oooh!  Breakfast!”   (Someone whose name rhymes with Shmevin may have gotten a bit emotional over the course of the morning while I remained a rock.  Or maybe I didn’t.)

Recap

Overall, if you enjoy the companionship of a dog (or cat or bunny) I heartily recommend doing a sleepover when you visit Best Friends.  It gives the animals a break from their routines, gives the caretakers a bit of insight on how the animals react to various situations and it gives you someone to love on while your own furbaby is at home.  Win-win-win.