Posts Tagged ‘fearful dogs’

Today is Petfinder‘s 15th birthday–and they’re asking all of us to spread the word about adoptable pets for Adopt the Internet Day!

My choice? Lacey, a beautiful tri-colored 2-year-old Border Collie, who is listed on Petfinder from one of my favorite adoption places, Western Border Collie Rescue.

OK, you all know that I adopted a fearful Border Collie that I found on Petfinder in 2002–a fearful dog is always challenging, yet rewarding. That’s why I picked Lacey as my Adopt the Internet dog–in the right home, she’ll blossom!

Lacey’s Story

Lacey in January snowlight

Lacey’s story isn’t that different from many pets up for adoption, but it’s still important. Her amazing foster mom gave us this account.

In November 2009, an Eagle Colorado animal shelter worker contacted Western Border Collie Rescue about two very scared Border Collies: Cotton, Lacey’s mom, and Lacey, the last pup left in her litter. Cotton’s owner was moving (how many times do we hear that?) and he didn’t want the burden.  Lacey was only 3 months old.  Both Lacey and her mom spent 3 months at the shelter before Western Border Collie Rescue sprang them and placed the two fearful dogs in a foster home.

Then, a sad turn. Cotton became very sick.  Vet testing revealed that she was suffering from Immune Mediated Polyarthritis, a serious joint disease.  The rescue decided that Cotton and Lacey be separated so that Cotton could work on getting better and Lacey could learn how to become more confident in a new environment.

Luckily for Cotton, her new foster mom decided to adopt Cotton. But Lacey was not so lucky. For the first 3 months in her foster home, Lacey shut down and hid as far away as possible when people would come near. Her daily routine was staying away from open spaces, sticking close to walls, hiding under tables or huddling in corners. Scared, unable to cope.

Lacey And Other Dogs

But, Lacey’s foster mom soon realized that Lacey felt safe when she was around other dogs–she was comfortable with them. No matter

Lacey showing off her one headlight

what size, breed, color or age, if there was another dog around, Lacey seemed happy romping, wrestling, running at the speed of light, chasing–you name it, if there’s a dog around, she’s up for anything!

Lacey’s Progress with Humans

Lacey asks for human attention in her own special way. Her foster mom says that, maybe two or three times a night during TV-watching time, Lacey “sneaks up, get real close,” and then put her head down on the nearest lap. Once Lacey gets about 5 seconds of petting, she sneaks away.

The good news is, Lacey is starting to show signs of trust in her foster mom’s friends and some family members–HUGE steps from the scared little dog in the corner.  Her foster mom recounts another milestone: 1 year, 1 month and 12 days after arrival, Lacey mastered the cue “sit!”  To

Ready to play!

her foster mom, that was a sign “that Lacey could do what any other dog can do.”

Lacey’s Hope

Lacey came to her foster home on December 4, 2009–it’s the only real home she has ever known.  She will probably never be a bomb-proof, totally confident, happy go-lucky dog.  She might always be afraid of new situations and may never want more than 5 seconds of attention at a time. She needs a family who wants her for who she is. The family will need patience, training, and the ability to understand that small steps are really huge steps in this little girl’s life.

For example, her foster mom is thrilled that Lacey chooses to sleep with her every now and then. The most important things that Lacey needs in her life, according to her foster mom, “are humans that will accept her for who she is, love her even when it seems she doesn’t want it, give her a home with at least one other dog, provide a warm bed in a quiet corner to rest her head, and maybe a few romps in the snow in the winter and a few splashes in a river or lake in the summer. Is that too much to ask?”

No, it’s not! To find out more about Lacey, see her Petfinder profile. And if you’re interested in adopting her, I’ll pay half of her adoption fee!


UPDATED April 18 at the end of this post. Original written December 18, 2010.

This post is part of the #reverb10 project that provides daily topics throughout December to help us reflect on the past year and sets intentions for the year ahead.

Day 16 topic: Friendship How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?

Milli. The friend who gave me my life back in 1997. But when Milli’s guardians recently reported that, at age 14, she’s missing almost all her teeth and much of her hair, has cataracts, can’t chase her beloved balls much, is lethargic and that her allergies were worse,  it was chilling. She saved me, that little rescue girl.

Milli in her golden years

“But I can’t save her,” I thought. I cried. Hard. Still do, even while writing this. Sounds dramatic, I know. But it IS dramatic.

Milli and I met on a whim. “Would you housesit for a friend? I can’t do it anymore; they go away too much,” an acquaintance said. “They have this dog–she’s quirky.” “Yes,” I shouted, without question, not knowing or caring what “quirky” meant. I was living in a tiny, noisy, ugly apartment after a long, difficult experience. I lost my German Shepherds. I lost my house. Most of my family and friends were out of state. My job was in flux. I was on edge. What did I have to lose?

Buddies Milli and Frisbee

As I meandered up the long, winding driveway to the Boulder mansion, sitting on 6 acres, I was stunned at the beautiful surroundings. A door opened. Out ran a little 8-month-old Border Collie mix with a ball in her mouth. As soon as I got out of my car, she dropped the ball, ready to play. This ritual continued for years.

Milli and I, we’ve been through a lot together. Flooded basements during lightening storms while she shivered in the bathtub. Electrical fires. Leaking skylights. 48-hour power outages. Appliance breakdowns. Mountain lion and coyote encounters. Tangles with raccoons. Those scary hot air balloons, requiring much barking to scare away. Walks in drainage ditches, snakes, escapes into the neighborhood darkness, her prolific allergy attacks (her guardians grew hay for neighboring horses), several vet trips when she became too interested in porcupines, picking veggies from the garden, sitting on the deck until sunset, cuddling in bed.

Some of our funniest moments entailed playing ping pong–she would somehow throw her own ball on the table when us humans played–“pay attention to me!” When I first adopted Frisbee in 1999 (a BC mix, of course, just like she was), he felt as though he was at home. I’ve never seen him as happy as he was then, romping with Milli on that beautiful acreage, playing hide-and-seek and sniffing those strange wild animal smells. Other doggy friends would come by and play ball, chase, and do all the things dogs do. When I introduced puppy Luna, my other Border Collie, into the frey, she herded Milli constantly, while Milli’s only goal was to get me to throw her ball farther and farther. I called her “Silly Milli.”

Frisbee, Milli (background), Cricket, Luna

But Milli was also fearful. Of loud sounds. Of men. Of strange surroundings. Of bicycles. Of storms. Of phones ringing. What was that all about? Why won’t she let me hug her when she feels bad? Ha. I knew so little about fearful dogs back then. I asked around. I read. I talked to trainers. What’s with the hiding in the bathtub thing? What’s with the not eating when there’s a storm? Why does she run from the living room when Larry King is on TV? Why does she hide from some friends, but crave affection from others? Why is she scared of one room, but not another? Why did she bark so much and so fitfully at bikes, or cower at passing cars? Wow, lots to learn. I love that she gave me a gift–the path to what I do now.

Milli and her family moved to California in 2007. I couldn’t believe it. I mean, yeah, they only paid me when they remembered. But that wasn’t the point. My dogs and I looked forward to being with her every other month, a few weeks at a time, even though I owned a house by then. It was the one place I could relax and be free from stress. Truly free. My friends and family all knew Milli. We celebrated family holidays at “Milli’s house,” as we called it. The company I worked for even had day retreats there. So many memories tied into our decade together.

Of course, I survived her move, wiser and stronger from the experience. Milli changed my world. She never judged. She gave me an unexpected retreat when I needed it most. I get cards, pictures, and letters from her guardians; I know she’ll be gone to that rainbow bridge soon. But our friendship and memories live inside me. My dogs loved her. I can still say “Silly Milli” and they wag their tails, run to the door. We will never forget our best friend Milli.


Update April 18, 2011: I knew as as I saw the email subject line. “Milli.” She died April 16. My heart stabbed. “In the week preceding her death,

Milli's last photo with her family, Dec. 2010

she seemed a litle more out of it, with heavier breathing and possibly with a cold, but nothing more than that,” wrote her guardian. Her family was with her when she died–she’s now buried in their yard. The kids took it hard–she was their big sister their entire lives, not knowing life without her. RIP sweet girl, my first heart dog. 1996-2011.

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