Whole Dog Journal's Blog April 26, 2017

A Change of Venue: An Update on Rosie

Posted at 04:13PM - Comments: (25)

Way back in November I wrote about finding a great prospect for my sister-in-law Leslie and my seven-year-old niece, Ava. Leslie had put me in charge of looking for just the right dog for her and Ava: not too big nor too small, sweet, and trainable. On their behalf, I wanted to find a dog that would love and be fascinated with kids, because Ava absolutely loves dogs and most loves dogs who love her back.

Sarah's note with the photo said, "Something is wrong. This puppy is too mellow."

In my local shelter, after looking for months, I found a darling young Shepherd-mix who impressed me as having superior self-control for being such a young dog, as well as infinite sweetness and affection for people. On the other hand, she was  a younger dog than I had originally considered for them, and who seemed to have the potential for being larger than I had originally hoped. But she was just SO SWEET and fun and smart; she loved engaging with people, loved kids, loved to cuddle, and learned things fast. I discussed her with Leslie, and then brought her home for to evaluate her further. (Because I foster so much for my shelter, I get special privileges when it comes to taking dogs for a trial. Plus, I have a nearly perfect success rate at finding homes for my foster dogs.)

Every day I had the dog, I liked her more. She loved playing with my young dog Woody, was able to finesse the grumpy response she got from my older dog, Otto, and met all my other friends and their dogs in a happy, friendly way.  Leslie and Ava came to meet her, and really hit it off. Ava named her Rosie, and I committed to keeping and training her for a few more weeks while Leslie would work to find a dog-walker who could help them for a few months, so they could get through Rosie’s puppyhood and go on to a happy life together. It all seemed like it was going to work out perfectly.

But there was a perfect storm of things that caused this match to fail, not the least of which was a literal chain of storms! First, though, was this: Leslie and Ava were going to take Rosie for a week, a little before I would have wanted them to, ideally. I wanted her to have more training and reliable house-manners, but I had to go to a conference out of state. So we planned for them to take Rosie for a week, after which she’d come back to my house for more training.

Recharging for another day at work

Two days before I left on my trip, Rosie suddenly started favoring one hind leg. I took her to my veterinarian, who diagnosed a sprained/strained hock. The veterinarian suggested that Rosie should have some crate rest and leashed-walks for a week or so, in addition to a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. That was going to be a challenge even for me, as the pup was accustomed to at least one long walk or shorter, intense, off-leash romp a day! On days when I was super busy and she didn’t get a lot of exercise, she could be mischievous and destructive. I suggested they feed her only in food-dispensing toys, give her plenty of chews and toys, and walk her as much as they could on leash.

Then, as luck would have it, the weather was awful; it dumped rain almost the whole time I was gone. And Ava had a bad cold, and wasn’t feeling well. And the dog-walker Leslie had found couldn’t start until the following week. And the trainers I had hoped might be able to help them were both out of commission. So that week was rough on all of them. Rosie had to spend her days in a large crate (though Leslie came home at lunch time every day to let her go potty), and even the food-stuffed Kongs and other “enrichment” toys and chews didn’t make this much more fun. When Leslie got home from work (and Ava from school), they would take Rosie out for short, miserable walks in the pouring rain; it took only a few of these to have Ava begging her mom to walk the dog without her. That certainly wasn’t what any of us wanted!  And when they got back inside, Rosie (understandably) wanted to play and roughhouse, not cuddle with the marginally sick Ava. Their relationship went from wonderful to completely unenjoyable for both of them in a matter of days!

I heard these reports from the other side of the country with dismay, but I know from a lifetime with animals that bad weeks can happen – and that the damage to the relationship can recover just like that, too, if it’s not too bad. I hurried to pick up Rosie from their home the day I got back, so she could recover from her sprain and get enough play and stimulation from my young dog, Woody, at my house.

In the following weeks, however, when we discussed when the time would be right for Rosie to go back to Leslie and Ava’s house, I heard Leslie hesitating. She assured me that they loved the dog and trusted that she’d be a great, well-behaved dog – at some point. And I assured her that, if they preferred, I could find Rosie another great home and find them another dog.  Leslie and Ava had several heart-to-heart talks on the subject, and as Leslie reported the contents of these talks to me on the phone, I heard some new information: Ava really wished for a much smaller dog that she could hold on her lap. And Leslie admitted she had never felt any fondness for small dogs; she wanted a big dog, but she also wanted a dog that would bond with Ava and that Ava would love to walk and play with. Leslie did not want to have to force Ava to walk the dog, but Ava was getting intimidated by Rosie’s pent-up, energetic behavior. All three of them were bound to fail!

I felt terrible for failing to ferret out the conflict about their wishes for the dog’s size and behavior earlier, but I recommended that we find another home for Rosie, and revisit the dog project a bit down the road. Leslie and Ava agreed.

I felt a little burdened; I had already been hosting and training Rosie for about two months, and having any new pup in the house takes a lot of work and management. But fortunately for all of us, a solution popped up sooner than I thought it would. I took an off-leash dog walk with my friend Sarah Richardson, a trainer in the nearby town of Chico, California. Sarah owns The Canine Connection, a dog boarding, training, and daycare facility. She thought Rosie was just adorable, and loved how good she was on our walk. She said, “I have some clients who might be perfect for Rosie. Why don’t I take her for a few days and get to know her, so I could discuss her prospects and promote her to them?” I happily agreed and she took Rosie home.

I immediately started getting report from Sarah about how much she enjoyed Rosie.

“She went through puppy kindergarten class tonight and she was beyond awesome. Did you teach her all this stuff or did she jus naturally know how to be super sweet and attentive?”

“She’s amazing!”

“She’s a ridiculously easy and sweet puppy.”

And then it happened: “Hey Nance, I am thinking I might keep this puppy!”

Superb dog skills

The intended clients be darned, Sarah had lost three senior dogs in a year, and while she hadn’t planned on getting another dog herself, she was enjoying fostering Rosie so much, she just couldn’t help but fall in love. It helped, a lot, that Rosie has a gift for meeting other dogs with nearly perfect dog manners. If she meets a fearful or hostile dog, she is deferent and calm, helping defuse any potential situation. If she meets an overtly friendly dog, she dives into playtime fun.

In short order, Sarah renamed her Piper, and started using her, as many professional trainers do, as a “neutral” dog to help evaluate new client dogs for her daycare business and even in behavior consultations. She’s not yet a year old, but Piper can be counted on to behave in a calm, predictable manner with other dogs, and handles herself beautifully. Only five months later, Sarah relies on Piper for this valuable job. Sarah says, “She’s become one of my trusted training assistants, helping me with other dogs, She has superb dog skills!” AND, Piper gets to play with other dogs daily, and enjoys canoodling with Sarah’s other dogs on Sarah’s couch and bed!

So things have turned out perfectly for Piper. . . and Leslie and Ava are waiting a bit longer before trying any other dogs. They have some negotiating to do!

Comments (25)

I recently lost my beautiful 11 yr old black lab. He was the light of my life. I know I want another dog someday and after reading this story, I'm more apt to adopt a dog that has been in a foster home. That way there is someone familiar with the dog who has assessed their personality, habits, etc. I also have 3 cats to consider in the equation. While this story did seem a bit sad at first, I was thrilled to read that Rosie/Piper won the heart of Sarah and landed a great job! Kudos to you for sticking with Rosie and finding her the best home possible! :)

Posted by: SueW | April 30, 2017 9:27 AM    Report this comment

I think you did a great job for everyone concerned - family and dog! Thanks for sharing - good to hear it does not always workout the way we plan.

Posted by: BusyVP | April 28, 2017 11:47 AM    Report this comment

FWIW, I don't think everyone read the WHOLE article. The pup was crated NOT because the adoptive folks were lazy or disinterested or whatever else was suggested. The pup was crated because she had sprained/strained her hock and crating was the vet's prescription so the hock could heel.
I know quite a few families who have raised kids and dogs together quite successfully. I personally feel that kids and dogs DO work well, and one can't generalize that all young kids should not have dogs.
I do agree that the Mom and the child should have been much clearer on exactly what they hoped for in dog.
I think Nancy was awesome in posting the whole story, none of us perfect, and because she has such a wide range of connections, her efforts seem to turn out well. She has a way with puppers.
Thank you so much for your sharing Nancy, and your honesty.

Posted by: 3grrrs | April 27, 2017 6:33 PM    Report this comment

Another example of "Man plans and God laughs". You just thought you were getting Rosie for Ava. Ava just thought she wanted a dog. Rosie was for Sarah all along, and on her journey several people got a chance to learn some valuable lessons without a lot of messy and complicated situations. And of course, the best part is that Piper got where she is supposed to be and is now helping a lot of other dogs to find their "happily ever after". When you don't fight the master plan, and let things happen as they are meant to, it is so amazing to watch as the journey unfolds and you get to see how it all works out.
Well done. Great story.

Posted by: Pennyannie2 | April 27, 2017 3:00 PM    Report this comment

I am really saddened to hear the first part of this story. The mom was a parent and surely understands that small creatures depending on your care should not be subjected to you whims regarding weather. You also know that you take care of this living creature 100% no matter how you feel or don't feel. I agree with the comments that Ava and her mom perhaps need to be reevaluated for pet ownership. I am so relieved for Rosie that she found a responsible human mom and a loving and forever home. Kudos to you for sticking with Rosie through her hardships.

Posted by: rspamp | April 27, 2017 2:14 PM    Report this comment

Thank you for your honest assessment of the entire situation.

I think it is crucial that people do their own research on getting a dog, including the type of dog that they want; active, low-key, young, old, the list is endless. I have had a variety of dogs for about 40 years, and it puzzles me how people no longer seem to have an understanding of what it takes to own an animal.

I did considerable research in determining my latest dog purchase, and I spent hours talking with breeders and friends about the breed I wish to get. My dog, whom I bought at 12 weeks old, is, at 3 years old, is exactly what I wanted in a pet - smart, active, funny, and a great temperament. He walks quietly on a lead, behaves around other dogs, and even has a few Obedience titles.
Yet every so often, I am criticized by people that I didn't " adopt" a " shelter dog"... well, I have had numerous mixed breeds from kill and no-kill shelters alike, and the dogs, though a part of my family, were never as " solid" as this dog is, despite the same level of training and care. It's perfectly fine for people to have a mixed breed dog, and perfectly fine for them to get a dog from a shelter, but after this recent experience, I know what works best for me. This is not a criticism of what others do, but an explanation of why all dogs don't work for all people.

I admire the 7 year old girl for saying that this dog isn't what she wanted. But it's probably best she doesn't have another one for awhile. When she's old enough to get herself a dog, she can get exactly what she wants.

Posted by: Spearhead | April 27, 2017 1:05 PM    Report this comment

I was also reading this article with that familiar dread. Well put, WinifredTigerLily.

Working in dog rescue, I *know* only a handful of people are true dog lovers....the roll up your sleeves and get to work dog lovers. Everyone loves a puppy. It is Facebook level fun to take photos and gush about how cute they are. (I find all dogs worthy of love, regardless of pedigree or the world's attractiveness scale).

But, then the normal canine behaviors start that even the author ignorantly called destructive. It is called boredom. They are natural responses to a vacuum environment they were not meant to reside in. Rosie did nothing wrong other than being a dog.

There will always be bad weather. People get sick. This will happen with any dog, not just Rosie. The author has a blind spot, and was trotting out every excuse for her family's laziness and clear lack of commitment to owning a dog.

She wanted to put some type of positive spin on this situation. Rosie got very lucky. Most dogs don't have that kind of connections when people abandon them because it is not "convenient" or "work". Fact: Most languish and die in state run shelters.

People are so funny about their children, but it is time to acknowledge that most children, even teen agers, are not responsible or committed enough to own dogs.

When dogs hit the 6-8 months mark, I get the phone calls, even with well vetted families who have resources, and hear the familiar excuses (he scratches, we are tired when we get home, he chewed on the hardwood floors) cited almost verbatim. Dogs are WORK.

And, walking a dog is ALWAYS a big deal. Fish swim, birds fly, dogs walk. If you are not walking your dog, absent a dog's medical needs, you are neglecting your dog. Full stop.

Posted by: Cora17 | April 27, 2017 12:51 PM    Report this comment

Pacific Sun expressed (posted) many of my thoughts. I HATE to say this, but I AM on record as saying (when you first posted about the plan) to pair Rosie with your SIL & 7 yr old AVA I did NOT think it would work.

I have done Weimaraner Rescue for over 10 years. Weims are generally even MORE active (unless 8 years of age, or OLDER) than most other dogs. I have seen tons of kids - who either THINK they want a dog or whose PARENTS want a large dog with some protective tendencies - come to our adopt-a-thons or open houses.

Kids under 12, cannot HOPE to handle an active dog and should not be expected to WALK a large breed alone, period. Too many strong dogs, can pull the leash out of their hands, even if they (are leash-trained). I've seen more than a few kids (up to age 12) become INTIMIDATED by a highly active, bouncy 60-80 lb dog.

In our breed's case, we almost never place Weims (unless older) in homes with kids under age 10 or 12. And if we do, the Adult(s) have to be dog-experienced with a similar highly active breed or have owned a Weim before and at least ONE of the adults must; work part-time, or work from home. And yes, "WE" learned a LONG time ago that a placement would NOT work, if absolutely EVERYBODY in the family was NOT "on board" and THRILLED about the dog.

Posted by: Betsy | April 27, 2017 12:49 PM    Report this comment

Good point winifredtigerlily! IMHO, A 7 year old is not old enough to have responsibility for a dog. They get busy; they grow up; their interests change. And that will continue at least into adulthood, and possibly forever. Any dog (or other pet) that comes into a household needs to be accepted as a family member, not the responsibility of just one person. The adults have to be willing to take over the everyday work. At 7, her job is to learn how to interact successfully and thoughtfully with a canine friend. Parents will be doing most of the feeding and walking and playing and training. That's just how it is. I recommend that people with small children that haven't grown up with dogs in the house do some fostering for a multi-breed rescue if the adults can take on that role. Then everyone can learn more about different personalities and what works best for their household.

Posted by: AvidReader | April 27, 2017 12:00 PM    Report this comment

I am so glad that Piper found a good, loving home in a place where people understand her needs and appreciate her for who she is! Nancy thank you for the wonderful job you did training Piper. The story made me very sad however. It sounds like adults in her life need to help Ava to grow in her understanding and expectations of dogs. Dogs, not even the small ones, are perfect creatures. No matter how well-trained, dogs require daily attention and exercise... sometimes in all kinds of inclement weather. Dogs are sentient beings who require our love, understanding, dedication, and hard work in taking care of them. We have many dedicated people who do such wonderful jobs training nice dogs but we still need to do a better job training people about dogs.

Posted by: Sarie | April 27, 2017 11:27 AM    Report this comment

Kudos to you for your honesty. Fortunately you have access to multiple dogs and potential clients. What you described however, is exactly WHY dogs end up in Shelters. Exactly why. Let's extract all the emotions from this story. Including your loyalty (or sense of obligation to family). These people, are still "clients" and they weren't honest about their needs and abilities. Frankly, YOU did all the work, just to make the situation work. First tip, the clients were side-stepping responsibility. Only certain dogs and personalities can handle being alone all day. It's tough on puppies. It's tough on high-energy, busy, inquisitive dogs, that need to be challenged. And, going back and forth from your busy life, to their quiet one (except for walks) is difficult. Also dogs thrive in packs. So even in lieu of formal exercise, a dog is getting stimulation from a pack (or social order) even one other dog! When I acquired a new puppy, asked if I could raise him for awhile with his brother (even though I had an older dog). So there would always be youthful company inside his exercise pen. In order for him to remain social. Second tip, the dog was (apparently) kept in a crate all day. Crate training is EXCELLENT! It can be perfect. But for a young, busy puppy, it must be interspersed with stimulation. Otherwise an exercise pen, might be more helpful. Looks like these people gave up, after one sitter quit. But there are plenty of other sitter options. There are places to day-board a dog, during bad weather days. Especially important because the dog was recovering from (probably a growth spurt) but what you're calling a "sprain." Dogs need constructive, disciplined attention, first of all, then exercise. I wonder what was going on during the family's non-working hours. Third, large dogs (no matter how "cute") are a special challenge, but the kid really wanted a lap dog. Dogs are VERY, very smart. IMO, they sense a mismatch and the kid (family) could've been giving off subtle cues that the plan wasn't working out (or wouldn't be) for a long time. We've seen that happen a LOT, where dogs are placed in families. But the story you provided is a good lesson for all. That prospective owners need to be VERY sure of their circumstances, have dog experience (patience), and that they know their preferences, and they understand the impact of a high ENERGY level dog (no matter the age) which will work in their household. Had they adopted an older, little mature dog, less in need of so much socialization, and so much walking, and more "cuddly" ... things might've worked out better. But PLEASE as a Foster Dog worker, don't blame yourself. Ultimately, people must be responsible for themselves. And their choices and decisions. It's just so hard on the poor dogs! Glad the "tail" had a happy ending. Too many do not!

Posted by: Pacific Sun | April 27, 2017 11:17 AM    Report this comment

I concur. Obviously, Lisa and Ava are not ready to have a pet. The person writing this article should have picked up on this. Even children, when taken out of their environment and routine don't act and respond the same. Also, the mother should have understood that any puppy/kitten will want to play and rough house.

Posted by: Fsunreid | April 27, 2017 11:14 AM    Report this comment

Couldn't agree more with kizzyscarlet. A 7-year-old is determining the fate of this dog?!

Posted by: Tozolon | April 27, 2017 11:05 AM    Report this comment

Piper was certainly born under a lucky star. Her re-homing process was started by the best and she has gone to a superb home where she will not only be part of a perfect pack, but also be able to use the abilities that she was gifted with by nature. Thanks again Nancy Sterns for giving a chance to these wonderful dogs.

Posted by: aanchal | April 27, 2017 11:04 AM    Report this comment

So glad that Piper found a proper home. Agree with the others -- give your niece a stuffed toy, don't sacrifice a dog's life for her entertainment. Seriously? Locking a dog in a cage all day to be let out only a couple of times??? These people are not ready for the responsibility of caring properly for a dog, large or small.

Posted by: BJG | April 27, 2017 11:01 AM    Report this comment

Not where we thought this story was going ... but still, a happily-ever-after-ending. Fabulous!

Posted by: Carolyn M | April 27, 2017 10:52 AM    Report this comment

Nancy, you're an angel. Don't blame yourself for Rosie's first "fail" - just celebrate Piper's new life. It's impossible to explain to a 7-year-old, imo, that a pet is forever, through injured legs and lousy weather and everything else. It's also understandable that a high energy dog might intimidate a little 7-year-old girl.

Tell your sis-in-law my husband was also never a "small dog person" until I adopted a 5 pound bundle of bliss from the shelter, and he eventually fell madly, completely in love. He's quite miffed (for years now) that Riley bonded with me more closely than him!

Posted by: JanC1955 | April 27, 2017 10:45 AM    Report this comment

That is an awesome story!

Posted by: Sklene | April 27, 2017 10:44 AM    Report this comment

So Happy for Piper!!! She ended up with the best home I'm betting.

Posted by: joanne.c | April 27, 2017 10:25 AM    Report this comment

This lovely dog got smarts from the GSD side. Bravo that she has found the right home!

Posted by: zasha | April 27, 2017 10:12 AM    Report this comment

children should not be the person who chooses the dog. parents are the ones who always end up having the responsibility of walking, feeding etc.

this story is a perfect example. 7 yr old child should NEVER choose the dog.

thank god this poor little dog DID end up with the perfect home.

Posted by: kizzyscarlet@gmail.com | April 27, 2017 9:45 AM    Report this comment

If 7-year old Ava is not 100% "on board", I shudder to think how she will feel/act when she's a teenager. A dog is not a toy. If Ava wants a dog that will sit on her lap, get her a stuffed animal!! Any pet is ultimately the responsibility of the parent, not the child.

Posted by: CGW | April 27, 2017 9:39 AM    Report this comment

A perfect example of the maxim that there is a dog for every dog lover but no dog is right for everyone.

Posted by: KATHY HALL | April 27, 2017 9:10 AM    Report this comment

That is great that it worked out so well for Rosie/Piper!!

I'd be concerned that the 7 year old is going to lose interest in walking 'any' dog. (Unless that isn't really a big deal.)

Posted by: KimberlyO | April 27, 2017 9:09 AM    Report this comment

I'm glad this had a happy ending. I sadly have seen friends and family give up dogs who weren't what they expected (i.e. energetic, destructive, and needing training and attention) time and time again. I hope your niece reframes her expectations based on this experience -- surely there will be more very rainy days and even small lap dogs needs walks, have tons of energy, need training, etc. And the small "lap dog" might not like being on a lap ... what then ...

Posted by: winifredtigerlily | April 27, 2017 9:07 AM    Report this comment

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