Whole Dog Journal's Blog March 16, 2017

Why These Dogs are Making Me Sad

Posted at 09:27AM - Comments: (33)

For the past three days, anyone who has called me has asked, “What’s wrong?” I keep thinking I’m doing a fine job of covering my irritation and emotional upset, and answering the phone the way I always do, but apparently – not.

For weeks, since the evacuation of my shelter, I’ve been fostering a young dog who was brought into the shelter a few days before the evacuation. The people who brought him to the shelter said they found him as a stray. It later developed that someone who saw him in the shelter recognized him as the dog who belonged to the people who surrendered him; they pretended he wasn’t their dog when they surrendered him. That happens often enough that no one at the shelter was surprised to learn this. The dog is adorable, but he’s got problems – physical and behavioral.

He's got the cutest face. We think he's some sort of Lab/Poodle-mix, a bad attempt at a marketable "doodle."

I think he’s been kept in a crate or small pen his whole life; he has the least amount of muscle tone of any dog I’ve ever met. When I took him out of his shelter kennel for the first time, I was horrified to see how he walked – like he was wearing clown shoes on all four feet. His muscles and tendons were so unused, that he walked way back on his wrists on all four legs; he had wear marks on the back of his hocks. He lacked coordination, but sort of flopped about very enthusiastically. He was sweet and affectionate, and happy to meet other dogs and people. I have been calling him Muppet, because he looks just like one, all goofy-haired and splay-legged. My husband dubbed him “Floppy” and said, “Floppy makes me sad!” He makes me sad, too.

Are his problems from being malnourished? He is super thin. Does he have adequate bone density? Are his hips constructed in a way that can be developed, or will he need surgery to ever walk properly? The shelter vet examined him briefly and instructed me to give him a few weeks of gentle exercise and a good diet, supplemented with some glucosamine and fish oil, and we’ll see how he responds to that before we spend too much of the shelter’s medical budget on x-rays.

Overall, his behavior is not terrible, just uneducated, but he is prone to displaying one incredibly annoying tactic: barking in frustration, excitement, or for attention. He barks when you put him in a crate, when you pick up a leash or car keys, when he sees a cat or dog out the window, or when you ask him to sit and you don’t get the treat to him fast enough (in his opinion). And his bark is one of those with the pitch that can make your earwax liquefy. Ouch!

Though he can now carry himself without tripping, and his forelegs have strengthened to the point where he's standing on them in a more upright manner, his hindlimbs are still rather floppy, and he walks on the back of his feet/wrists more than he ought.

I just can’t imagine having such a cute dog get to his age – we’re guessing he’s about 10 months or just over a year old – with zero training and apparently, next to no medical care (he is neutered). He has a lot of potential, because he’s sweet and funny and playful. I’ve been working with him daily to teach him to tolerate frustration without barking; to sleep nicely in a crate; to sit, down, come, and walk nicely on a leash (and off, where safe). He’s been doing great – and finally putting on a little muscle, too. Whereas his thighs were flat as pancakes when he came home with me, he has little waffle-thighs now, and some muscle on his shoulders. His front feet no longer look like clown shoes; he is completely walking upright on his front paws now.

His back legs are another story; he is extremely cow-hocked, and still prone to walking a bit on the back of his paws and wrists. I suspect that his hips really don’t work right. He doesn’t seem to be in any pain, but without some sort of major intervention, I don’t see how he can age without developing osteoarthritis or blowing out his knees. He’s getting radiographs and a more complete veterinary exam next week and I’ll know more soon.

I’ve been mildly optimistic about his prospects, as complicated as they are by his wonky legs, but was plunged into depression by my most recent canine visitor. This is a dog who was found as a stray by a friend. She tried without luck to find his owners, had him neutered, and then tried to find him a home. She said he barked a lot and fought with her dogs, and finally a friend of hers took him, but recently the friend returned him, saying he didn’t get along with her dogs, either, and also, he barked way too much. I agreed to have him come visit my house and share my opinion of his behavior.

My husband dubbed this guy "Curly." He's squinting in the sun; his expression usually looks nicer. But those knees ugh.

I expected, from the description, a dog-aggressive dog. What I have observed is a highly anxious dog – perhaps in pain from terrible-looking knees – who really just wants other dogs to leave him alone and to be with a person. He snarled at Muppet, who, lacking polite canine social skills, approached him too strong and too quickly, but when Muppet left him alone, he calmly went about his business. He frisked about a bit when Woody tried his best to get him to play, but other than that, he’s been all too happy to leave the other dogs alone if they leave him alone. With people, he’s wary at first, but affectionate once he sees that a person will be nice to him.

Here’s what really got me upset: he was handed over to me along with his prescription for Prozac – suggested by a trainer who worked with him a year or more ago and prescribed by a local vet – and an “anti-bark” shock collar! He wasn’t currently wearing it, but “Here it is in case you want to use it, my friend has been using it for a few months…”

I. Just. Can’t.

Even when people are trying to be kind, we’re awful to dogs.

I’d really like to find both of these dogs better homes, but despite the fact that both of them have affection and companionship to offer, they have special needs that will make placing them complicated. Both need direction and management in order to be behaviorally pleasant family members. Both need medical interventions and management to live a pain-free life. Who will take them on?

So, if you happened to call me recently and I sounded cross – that’s what’s wrong. “Floppy” and this more recent orphan dog have made me sad. And mad. And there’s no easy way out of this.

Comments (33)

To Mike's Mom reader: I agree that we need to find a way to educate about & prevent animal abuse. I would welcome the opportunity to help in your efforts. I'm not familiar with the HARD movement, but please feel free to reach out to me so I may assist in whatever way I can. Not sure how much info WDJ shares about readers, so let's try to find a way to communicate directly.

Posted by: 1LilNito | April 6, 2017 10:16 AM    Report this comment

Oh! Wolfhounds also do not bark, they try, but they vocalize and have pitchy voices at times.....
I would travel the world to just pet this beautiful dog.

Posted by: bcbcking@gmail.com | March 21, 2017 7:13 PM    Report this comment

This looks all the world to me, and Irish wolfhound.... I have owned two, and they are special dogs, with special needs.... There is an Irish Wolfhound Rescue group, if you need help... My own just passed before Christmas, and I am good with large breed dogs, if you need me to foster... I am so understanding of your anger, I am so glad you feel this way. There is no reason for anyone to treat such loving animals in this fashion.... Thank you for being there. And I never wish for negative things toward people, just that their karma comes back to them threefold

Posted by: bcbcking@gmail.com | March 21, 2017 7:10 PM    Report this comment

Thanks so much to those of you who have expressed interest in these dogs. Muppet is being examined and x-rayed today and I hope to learn more about his prospects. And the other little guy is getting weaned off his Prozac - perhaps temporarily - so we can see what we're dealing with, in hopes of making a good plan for his future. The dogs are in Northern California, and we hope to place them locally, just so we are available as backup if whatever placement happens doesn't work out. - NK

Posted by: WDJ Editor Nancy Kerns | March 20, 2017 6:37 PM    Report this comment

Is Floppy able to be flown to the NY area....preferably Westchester Airport?

Posted by: MarshMelOh | March 19, 2017 9:05 AM    Report this comment

This makes me sad as well. Can you please tell me what part of the country these dogs are located?

Posted by: Wonesor | March 17, 2017 10:40 PM    Report this comment

Deerhound, I think. Or mix thereof. Something about eh rough coat, the eyes and the ears!

Posted by: Jenny H | March 17, 2017 9:38 PM    Report this comment

He actually looks like he has some Irish Wolfhound in him and if so, his ungainly ability could be contributed to lack of the proper nourishment (ratio of protein, etc) when he was a tiny babe. As you already know, large breed dogs require a particular ratio of proteins, etc. or they will not develop correctly. Could that be a possibility? I had a dog that resembled his build years ago and she was 1/2 German Shepherd; 1/2 Irish Wolfhound. Just a thought.

Posted by: lemonhead54 | March 17, 2017 6:37 PM    Report this comment

I can't and won't add details of anther horror story. Last month, about 3 weeks ago, I, a realtor, was summoned to a foreclosed house where two young dogs had been left to die with no food or water. Needless to say, they are now at my home, both have been neutered (we almost lost the bitch-she was pregnant-unknown to us or the vet), they are happy and finally have learned to wag their tails and look almost well fed. Now all I have to do is find a forever home for them and keep my fingers crossed.

Posted by: IrishWolfhound | March 17, 2017 5:00 PM    Report this comment

'Muppet" looks exactly like my Labradoolde, Harvey. His original owner told me horrible stories about him, and eventually gave him to me because it was either that, or a shelter. She did nothing with the dog; just put him out in the yard in the morning before work, and brought him back in at night. He destroyed the yard, upturned the trash and ate it too, chased anything that came near the fence, and to make matters even worse, never bothered to properly immunize him or neuter him!
At first he was a challenge, and had to unlearn bad behaviors. He has health issues such as thyroid, (easy),and SLO, (a constant struggle). However, I have an incredible vet and she truly is worth her weight in gold.
With patience, training and good food, he has become the love of my life.
I have had him for six of the best years of my life.
I wish I could adopt Muppet, but this is a small apartment with a very large dog and some cats. Who cares about the breed, as long as he is loved.

Posted by: Rbert135 | March 17, 2017 10:25 AM    Report this comment

In the head shot, "Floppy" looks a lot like a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, but the leggy body shot, suggests Scottish Deerhound . It would be interesting to know what mix he really is. The odds would suggest something much more common like Nancy's idea of a Lab x Poodle cross. Regardless, he's (now) a handsome& striking boy.

Posted by: Betsy | March 16, 2017 8:03 PM    Report this comment

Yes Yes Yes there will be no easy way out for these dogs....and you. Last July (2016) I got a call from our local shelter/and our rescue group puppy foster coordinator that 2 "stray" puppies were brought in by some "people" and the female could not walk....the male was OK (not really). It turns out someone has broken both her front legs (puppies were 8 weeks 5 pounds). So we cancelled our vacation because I knew it was not going to be a fast easy foster. We spent an extremely stressful summer taking care of Emily (the vet said she was stressed I told her I was tearing my hair out). The casts came off for the last time in September she had hydrotherapy (in our jetted tub with a life jacket) and in October she was adopted by a wonderful couple. The husband's parents had adopted our challenging foster of 2015 (a dog who looked like a rubber chicken rescued by a friendly truck driver). It turned out the brother of Emily, Crispin was not OK after all....he had a hip injury that took 2 surgeries to fix and he was adopted in January 2017 by a wonderful family. So the bottom line is someone injured 2 tiny puppies...by kicking them or hitting them with something and it makes me mad and sad!!!!

Posted by: Olivia | March 16, 2017 7:24 PM    Report this comment

meldrape - I believe the editor lives in Oroville, CA whose dam was compromised with all the rain. The shelter is in a flood zone near the dam.

Posted by: dihard | March 16, 2017 3:37 PM    Report this comment

Our organization rescues puppy mills dogs released by the puppy mills in our area. They have spent years in cruel confinement, without exercise and for the most part, walking on wire. They are down on their hocks with no muscle whatsoever, sometimes deformities and I also find, an undeveloped sense of balance. Swimming makes a big difference in building muscle and strength without putting pressure or stress on joints as walking would. Often times this alone will bring about enough progress for them to lead a normal life without surgery. Surgery on joints, hips, tendons, etc are less than successful surgeries, lead to long confinement (exactly what these dogs DON'T need) and set up a situation where they are now more prone to injury at that surgical site. The big does benefit greatly from swimming. You might find there is a therapeutic dog swimming facility near you.

Posted by: Mleary | March 16, 2017 12:44 PM    Report this comment

What breed is Muppet......he sort of looks like an Irish Wolfhound. Have you found out if he will need surgery on his back legs? Will you be looking for a home for him? I might be interested in taking him. I have three dogs of my own all little ones but would like another big dog. Lost both of mine to cancer last year.

Posted by: SharonofBoulder Citry | March 16, 2017 12:43 PM    Report this comment

There are a lot of villains in your story-those who breed dogs with physical and temperamental flaws, which will permanently afflict the pups and the eventual owners, and the too large number of owners who will provide bad conditions for their dogs (poor nutrition, no, or inadequate exercise, little training, inadequate medical care) which will cause problems others will have to solve. It may not be very PC for me to say this, but people will care for their animals and children in a way that is consistent with the way they care for themselves. I saw a very obese family, with a very obese dog, at the vets' the other day. Obviously these people, while they may grasp the need for proper nutrition and exercise, aren't sufficiently motivated to put this in practice. Then there the evildoers who while treating themselves well, deny this same care to their pets or children. Mental health and intellectual deficits cause much suffering, for those afflicted, but also for those in their care. Social change happens very slowly, and is two steps forward, one step back, at times. Perhaps the local paper could do a series on animal care, and some of the problems caused by lack of care, and local resources. Are there local celebrity animal lovers who could help get the word out? It sounds like you are experiencing some compassion fatigue, a scary consequence of being a caring soul in a too often cruel world, what resources do you have access to that could help you nurture yourself?

Posted by: hilfri | March 16, 2017 12:36 PM    Report this comment

Please stop encouraging people to put dogs in "crates." They are not crates, they are cages. They are not like caves or dens -- a dog has a way to exit a cave or den. People often cause the most harm even though their intention was good, and more frequently I see dogs that are obviously left in cages for hours on end. No living creature should have to live in a cage. If you are so concerned about cleaning up a couple of accidents while training your dog, perhaps a dog is not a good fit for your household. We have adopted many dogs over the years and have never ever caged them. They are part of the family and free to roam the house as they please. When they need to go outside, they go when they want, using dog doors and entering a securely fenced (physical fence) yard. Have I cleaned up a couple of accidents while they learn to use the dog door? Sure, no big deal. Have I found a couple of pillows chewed up? Sometimes, yes, with younger dogs. Such an insignificant price to pay to provide a relaxed, safe, and comfortable home for my dogs.

Posted by: BJG | March 16, 2017 12:27 PM    Report this comment

Anyone involved in rescue has been where you are -- I sent kind, thorough instructions home with an adolescent dog who had a bowl-guarding problem, and the adopter ignored them, went on line to watch Cesar Milan videos and surprise! Got bit multiple times and returned the dog. This dog is great and shows no guarding when approached properly. Me, on the other hand...Grrrr!

Time for a reiki treatment, massage, long walk/drive in nature etc. I'm going and I hope you do too! If we burn out, we can't help anyone. Peace.

Posted by: paxmeanspeace | March 16, 2017 11:55 AM    Report this comment

Sending healing thoughts and love and hugs to you and the pups. There is space reserved in heaven for you all, and hell just got a few tickets shorter!
KNow we're all thinking of you....

Posted by: robin r | March 16, 2017 11:45 AM    Report this comment

I highly recommend laser treatments for pain in pets. It is painless, simple and fairly quick. Helps with backs and joints. My vet offers it and I've taken my dog for a series of treatments. Definitely helped with his spine. With the pain relieved, the behavior problems could be lessened also.
Thank you, Nancy, for ALL you do! I know how you feel...

Posted by: jww | March 16, 2017 11:37 AM    Report this comment

Dear Nancy, I had a "Floppy" in rescue too, years ago. Her name was Flash. She was a retired racer who had spent years in a small confined space after her "career" ended. She was elderly and had flappy skin where her glutes and hamstrings should have been. She could hardly stand. We gradually walked and then even climbed stairs and some nearby hills to get her muscles back. I loved and admired her so. Her spirit never flagged. Her favorite thing was to walk in and out of an open gate. In and out. Because she could. Months later a deer jumped into our yard and then knocked over a fence section as she jumped to get out. Flash escaped and chased that deer for a mile! It was the highlight of her life. When I finally caught up to her (driving in the car) she was exhausted, trembling and triumphant! What a day that was. She lived another 2 happy years after that. All we can do is give them the time of their lives. And celebrate the progress. You do so much good. Hugs to you. Carol

Posted by: CEJO | March 16, 2017 11:15 AM    Report this comment

Okay, I'll try this again. I will be happy to adopt either or both of these appealing creatures, who obviously deserve some good breaks for a change. My wife and I have six dogs now, five of them rescues; but we have the means. I'm retired, so I have the time and I love dogs. My son is a professional trainer in Santa Monica, by the way, so I also have good backup, if I need to deal with behavioral issues.
I'm serious about this, so if you are, please get in touch.

Posted by: Alvin Hill | March 16, 2017 11:13 AM    Report this comment

We adopted a Bernese Mountain Dog who has much milder, but similar issues due to not enough food, excessive confinement and lack of exercise. She's just a very dominant, demanding personality and this inhumane treatment by a family that just didn't know how to handle a dog like her made it that much worse. We brought her home at around 5 months old, and now she is 21 months and is turning into a much more manageable Berner. One of the tools we've used is a product called SereninVet, a combination of calming herbs, that takes enough edge off her anxiety at not getting what she needs. That allows her brain to function, and she's very smart, so she has learned to lick rather than bite, sit for attention (not reliably, but better!), and loose leash walk. FWIW. Good luck!

Posted by: Wyomingsara | March 16, 2017 10:56 AM    Report this comment

When I adopted my second Rhodesian Ridgeback, he is was in a similar state as Muppet, but not as severe. 4-1/2 months old, 10-15lbs under weight, low muscle tone, and at first it looked like he was hare-footed (splayed toes, walking flat toward his wrists). No training (he had a great sit, but that's it), not even house training! He was typically left home all day with no walks, sometimes crated sometimes not, and never learned not to do his business indoors. Don't get me started on his manners during our meals - he would take the food out of your mouth if he could (although gently). It took me two weeks to convince him that walking on a leash across the lobby of our building didn't mean certain death.

With a few months of enough food and good nutrition, he put on weight and his feet shaped up to almost normal. He's now 2-1/2 years old and still pretty narrow in the body, but he is a good size and very healthy. His manners have improved tremendously with training, but he is still obsessed with food. He is 99.9% house trained now - he has learned how to let me know if he needs to go out between regular walks, but I have to get him out fast. He's still a little socially awkward in that he will rush up to other dogs and sometimes people to say hello (he loves everyone), but is finally learning that the little dogs snarling and lunging at him don't actually want to play.

There was no excuse for his condition. His original owner is a wealthy and educated woman who had 4 other dogs, 3 cats, and 3 children when she decided that my pup was "too much" for her and gave him to her dog walker to board while he tried to find him a new home. Then the dog walker failed him, under feeding him horrible food and leaving him home all day with no walks to relieve himself or learn to go outside. I am very happy that fate brought him into my life, but I get so angry when I think of what his first few months were like.

Posted by: AviaMR | March 16, 2017 10:56 AM    Report this comment

I read as much as I can in WDJ and always your articles about rescues and the amazing things you do - my heart ached reading this today although I am in total agreement that some people are out of their minds when it comes to having a dog/pet/lifelong friend in their lives. I pray these 2 dogs find forever homes and know that in your care, they are already blessed and on their way to healing. Bless you :)

Posted by: Kenai's Mom | March 16, 2017 10:50 AM    Report this comment

First, I would find a good Holistic vet to prescribe Bach Flower remedies to calm the anxieties these dogs have. An excellent vet is Dr. Randy Kidd, DVM, PhD. The last thing they need is drugs. Hydro therapy or Swim therapy (my choice) is wonderful at building and toning muscle.
Second, can we readers of Whole Dog Journal work through your Journal to push HARD for better legislation regarding animal abuse, and to get good information into the hands of new (and old) dog owners who are not currently receiving this publication. A plan would be really good. Then we could form a coalition and one by one, county by county we could make the difference. If we don't do it, no one will. Who's with me? We can do 90% of this on the internet.

Posted by: Mike's Mom | March 16, 2017 10:28 AM    Report this comment

This puppy looks so much like one of my rescues it is scary. Touchdown was thrown over my fence shortly after Hurricane Andrew in Miami, Fl. He lived an amazing 21.5 years with me and became my heart, soul and my best friend. He died peacefully in my arms three years ago. A very large part of my heart died that day also. I wish we could adopt this youngster but right now it is impossible. We have three Shih Tsu's presently - tow of which are rescues and one a gift from a dear friend. I hope whoever is fortunate enough to become his forever family will enjoy the many years I did with my Touchdown.i

Posted by: touchdown | March 16, 2017 10:07 AM    Report this comment

If they would just arrest people (no bail, no fines) for neglecting animals, it might make them think twice before attempting to have one. People like this are SICK.

Posted by: Pacific Sun | March 16, 2017 9:58 AM    Report this comment

It should be just as hard to adopt an animal into your home as a human infant or child. Unfortunately that is far from the case and just about anyone who gets the urge can have an innocent animal under their "care". This neglect also upsets me very much as you can tell. Bringing an animal into your life should be a lifetime commitment regardless of what that lifetime brings. I appreciate you very much for figuring these complicated little guys out and trying to help them, and I hope it turns out well for both dogs.

Posted by: westielover | March 16, 2017 9:56 AM    Report this comment

Have you thought of hydrotherapy for Floppy to strengthen his hip girdle muscles?
Keep the good work going!

Posted by: Melvena | March 16, 2017 9:54 AM    Report this comment

Well that just made me sad too I don't understand the whole "anti-Bark " collar they are after all a dog and last time I checked dogs bark for a reason it's one of their ways to communicate. I hope that you find someone who has the time and patients,love and positive reinforcement to give these pups a forever home. Thank you for all you do.

Posted by: lbtrader | March 16, 2017 9:53 AM    Report this comment

Nancy your post really tugs at my heart. While I am sorry that you have this sadness in your life, I am glad that you are upset by it, it just shows what a caring person you are. I work with two shelterless rescues and I see similar situations all the time. I should probably be immune to how stupid and lazy people really are but it still kills me every time I meet or foster a pup that just needs some time, training, attention and love but didn't get that from their original owners. I am no dog expert but I have had my share of fosters that have been malnourished or confined to small spaces and even I have been successful at working through their issues (of course in my inexperienced days I did loose an entire ham off of the kitchen counter to a starving counter surfer!) All I can say is thank goodness there still are folks like you and the countless other volunteers who give generously of themselves to help save and rehabilitate as many dogs as possible.

Posted by: stucker | March 16, 2017 9:53 AM    Report this comment

You, my friend, are a gift from God to these dogs and anybody who reads your journal. We appreciate you. Why did you have to evacuate? Were there fires in your area? The bad snow storm? Where are you located?

Posted by: meldrape | March 16, 2017 9:43 AM    Report this comment

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