Please #spayandneuter your dogs

So here’s what happened. I love dogs and I adopted Bandit from a rescue after meeting him at Petsmart.

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It was impulsive, to say the least.

Bandit had been at the shelter for six years (!!) and was quiet and submissive, which is what drew me to him.

Except when he wasn’t quiet and submissive. In certain situations — like when he was in the car and didn’t want to get out, or when he didn’t want to get off the couch or go into his crate — he would growl and try to bite.

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I couldn’t reconcile it with the usual sweet and submissive disposition I saw most of the time. But it was there. He could be aggressive and I couldn’t keep him.

I surrendered him on Tuesday. I felt terrible mostly because I shouldn’t have adopted him in the first place.

So here’s what happened: Bandit was born because some dogs weren’t spayed or neutered. (He’s not an AKC dog and had no history.) Eventually he got picked up by a no-kill shelter which most people think are fantastic — except when a dog has aggression issues and keeping it alive = wasting resources that could be used on adoptable dogs. The shelter was so eager to adopt him out, they didn’t care about his history or do any background on me. (Yes, the shelter sucked.)

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And yes, I was the impulsive sucker who adopted a dog with no history.

As much as I hated having a puppy — they chew, they pee in the house, they are susceptible to viruses — Maizey and other AKC champion-bred dogs have a history. I have her entire line going back 5 generations and her breeder would have taken her back in a heartbeat if I had had any problems with her. (And tried to, but that’s another story.)

But dogs like Bandit, who have no history, are a crapshoot. They might be awesome and well behaved, and you might do well to get them as puppies when they are blank slates (to an extent) but you might not.

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Irresponsible breeding — breeding because you want your kid to see the miracle of life, or you want your dog to have one litter before getting him neutered or her spayed — is the root of the issue, for dogs.

For humans, it’s being a sucker. My friends have suggested I not adopt any more dogs. I can’t make that promise forever — I love dogs, always have and always will. But I can promise the next dog we own will either be from a foster with a history or from a AKC breeder. No more spontaneous impulsive dogs adoptions.

Instead, I’ll donate to a spay and neuter organization if I feel like spending my money well.

Here are two four-star rated charities (from charitynavigator.org) that support spay/neuter efforts:

http://www.petsmartcharities.org/

http://www.snapus.org

Introducing Bandit #rescuedog #thehavenfriendsforlife

The Informant and I were at a pet supply store buying some fish supplies, when we saw this

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He was at the store with an adoption event from The Haven–Friends for Life, a rescue organization in Raeford, NC. The Haven is a no-kill shelter housing hundreds of dogs from various pounds, or dogs that have been dumped by their owners. Also, dogs whose owners have been deployed (it’s near Ft. Bragg and Pope AFB).

The dog was black, schipperke-looking, about 40lbs and completely silent. That’s my #1 criteria for a rescue dog — no barking and no jumping (and also, neither huge nor small). But not shy or timid, just quiet. He’s an old boy, around 9, and he has had all his vaccines, is neutered, and has been given heart worm preventative and flea/tick medication.

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Maizey, the dog without a downside, has one definite downside: she is not happy about sharing her space. For right now they’re separated most of the time, so they can get used to each other’s scents.

He was nameless and we named him Bandit, after Leigh Botts’ dog in Dear Mr. Henshaw and also after Shirley’s nickname in China in In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson.

Bandit is getting used to life here.

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Get a Job! Bond with Your Dog!

Because I work at a holistic pet supply store, I can bring Maizey to work. And I do, every day. She entertains customers and when it’s slow I throw a tennis ball around for her.

Occasionally she exhibits some dog-shaming behaviors.

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Mostly she sits by the door and watches people. She totally ignores the bird.

Since I’ve been bringing her to work, there’s been a change in her usual aloof behavior: she HEARTS me. I assume this is because we’re now spending 20h per week by ourselves. She used to love My Chemical Romance. No more. Now she follows me around the house, including into the bathroom.

However, she wants us to have a secret relationship — so that she can ignore me completely when there’s another dog around.

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That’s her with Bruce. He is an AKC Champion English Mastiff, who weighs 240 lbs.

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There she is, being submissive to Dollar.

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She’s modeling a winter jacket.

She also hates me when I dremel her nails.

What I’m Feeding My Dog

On weekends, I work at a holistic pet supply store. The only animals we sell are hermit crabs and Betta fish. (When I’m not accidentally killing them.) The best part of my job is bringing Maizey. She gets exercise, she gets socialized — she gets to steal expensive chew toys.

I just love her — and we’ve really bonded as we’re spending up to 25 hours a week together.

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My store sells the following brands: Diamond, Chicken Soup, Taste of the Wild, Precise, Nature’s Variety, Blue, Merrick’s, Canidae, Primal, SoJo, Earthborn Holistic, Wellness, Honest Kitchen, Fromm, Orijen, Acana and Natura brands (California Natural, Innova, Evo, Karma).

If I could afford it, I’d feed her only Nature’s Variety Instinct (raw) or Orijen (dry). I’d potentially throw in some Honest Kitchen as a supplement.

But, even with a job at a holistic pet supply store, I can’t afford to feed her $3/lb or $4/lb food! Once in a while, but rarely.

I often get asked what I recommend and why. Here’s a short list:

If a dog has allergies, I recommend California Natural because it has few ingredients.

If you want a basic grain-free dry food at a good price, go with Taste of the Wild.

If you want a food that’s grain-free and very high in protein, I suggest Evo or Earthborn Holistic.

If you want a food that’s higher quality than grocery-store but cheaper than the high-end stuff, get Chicken Soup or Diamond.

Innova is a good brand that I’ve recommended to my mom. Merrick too.

Precise contains probiotics and has a pork protein type. Canidae is another great brand, with chelated vitamins.

The platinum standard, of course, is Orijen. It’s human-grade, high protein, low carb, and made with local (Canada) free-range protein. Acana is slightly lower protein but made in the same plant.

Maizey eats Fromm grain-free Beef Frittata. She’s probably tried every brand we have, and we can agree on Fromm. It’s a small, independent company that has never been recalled. It has probiotics and chelated vitamins. And she LIKES it.

Maizey is a very selective eater — when she was a puppy, I could hardly keep weight on her — and she enjoys Fromm. Almost as much as Orijen.

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Visiting My Old Dog

When we were in San Diego, I had a chance to see my former dog, Deuce. She was my 25th birthday present to myself, almost eight years ago. That day I went to the local animal shelter looking for a dog. Deuce — who had been called Lisa by the shelter — was the only dog who didn’t bark or jump up in her kennel when I walked by. She seemed friendly, and after spending some time with her I decided to adopt her.

From what I could tell, she had never lived in a house with people. When I picked her up from the vet’s office, after her mandatory spay surgery, she wouldn’t get in my car. She didn’t know how to walk on a leash. When a car drove by, she would freeze.

We had Deuce for about five years. She came with us to Arizona when we moved from San Diego. However, when we were relocated to North Carolina we couldn’t find a place that would let us bring a 65-lb dog. We asked Pa, My Chemical Romance’s grandpa, if he would keep her until we got a house. He agreed. Pa loved Deuce and he often talked about getting a dog who could go RV-ing with him. It was a good solution for everyone — Deuce would be taken care of, and Pa would have a companion.

We got Deuce back two months after we moved, when we were established in our house. We were so happy to see her again! (We also had another shelter dog called Tex; later I got Maizey.)

When we got her back!

The problem was that Tex was an escape artist, and we had a very hateful neighbor who would constantly call Animal Control on us. Animal Control would come to our house and lecture us — or the kids, if they were playing in the front yard — about keeping our dogs under control. I became very stressed about the situation, and I thought it might be best for the dogs — and us — if I rehomed them.

The first person I thought of for Deuce was Pa. My Chemical Romance called him, and he agreed to keep Deuce — this time forever. My parents took Tex (“just til we can find him a home”) and fell in love with him and kept him.

We kept Maizey.

Our trip to San Diego was the first time I’d seen Deuce in more than three years. Her fur was thicker and heavier than I remembered. She had a lot of grey patches. Her legs seemed weak and wobbly, and she kept going into her crate. I’m not sure she recognized me.

It was obvious that she loves Pa, and she seems to have a good life with him. They walk most days, and Pa brings her to family gatherings. She gets to run around in the backyard and chew on rawhide bones.

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She’s a sweet dog. I hope she enjoys the rest of her life, with Pa.

 

Letter from Mineral’s Service Dog

Welcome to the March 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With Special Needs

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how we parent despite and because of challenges thrown our way. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Previously on Cinco de Mommy: My son, “Mineral,” has special needs.

Animal just looked at this pic and said, "Wow, he looks like Abraham Lincoln!"

Ever since Megan the Service Dog trainer determined that Mineral would NOT benefit from a service dog — or wouldn’t benefit enough to warrant the investment of time, money and energy — I’ve been dreaming that she was wrong and a dog would help him.

And, honestly, if I had $20,000 to pay, I could probably find a Service Dog company that would give us a trained dog. Indeed, there are several companies that train dogs for children with psychiatric issues, sensory processing disorder and autism. And while his special needs don’t fit into a precise label or box, he has some aspects of those disorders.

Sometimes I get lost thinking about what he needs from a service dog. And what we as a family need in order to add a Service Dog to our mix of five homeschooled kids in a rental house with a large fish tank — as well as another dog.

In my fantasy, the Service Dog would arrive on our doorstep one morning. He — I imagine it’s a he, and after doing my research on Service Dogs, I imagine him as either a Labrador retriever or a golden retriever — would have a note with him:

Hi there! (credit: pmarkham/Flickr)

Dear Family,

I am a Service Dog for Mineral. My name is Lego (because I was trained to help Mineral, and he loves Legos). I can do the following: help get him out of the house by exercising me, help him focus by working with me — and also distract him from his obsession with media or when he’s going to have media.

Although I am Mineral’s Service dog, I will appreciate some attention and love from the other children. Also from Maizey, the Dog Without a Downside. I will play with her –hopefully I can be a positive influence and she’ll stop barking her head off every time the baby is taking a nap.

Remember, I need to be brushed, washed and groomed regularly. I need to eat twice a day and have access to fresh water that the baby doesn’t play in. I need to see a vet once a year and take heart-worm prevention and flea/mosquito/tick repellent. I am a living creature and I am Mineral’s responsibility. Owning me, he will learn some empathy, which I know he lacks.

In return, I will stay by his side. When he is having an outburst and needs to calm down, he can pet me and/or talk to me. When he’s relaxed, I will sit by his feet while he does school work, or eats his meals.

(credit: Calsidyrose/Flickr)

I will bark to remind him of things. Bark! Sit down at the table with the rest of the family. Bark bark! Don’t aim weapons at people or animals or other living things. Bark bark bark! Wash your hands and change your clothes. Paw on his leg — stop compulsively licking your face. Jump on his chest — stop talking about MEDIA.

I know that every day with him is different, and most days are very challenging. I hope I can make him smile and ease his mind of his anxieties and compulsive thoughts — and behaviors. I aim to mitigate his outbursts, particularly the violent ones.

I know that Mineral has speech therapy, cognitive/behavioral therapy, occupational therapy and takes psychiatric medication. I hope I can complement those therapies and see you implement the most helpful suggestions and solutions.

And also, since you’re going to pay $20,000 for me and still have to pay for my food and dog toys and treats, I will bark four times after I finish vacuuming the entire house, mopping the kitchen and cleaning the bathrooms.

Sincerely,

Lego

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon March 13 with all the carnival links.)

Mineral Monday No More

Well, the first ever Mineral Monday turned out to be the last —

and yet, I raised $200 in that time.

I refunded it all, of course, with a nice thank you note to everyone who donated. Duh. Of course, there probably are some people who wouldn’t have refunded it, but do I really strike you as one of those people?

What happened was this: Megan, of Triumphant Tails, met with us three times. The first time with all of us, the second time with just the kids and me during a “normal” school day and the third time at Costco. She noted immediately that Mineral has severe ADHD. She also noticed his other issues — I guess the best word to use is SENSITIVITIES. He cannot control his emotions when his senses get overwhelmed (which is constantly because he’s so sensitive. And repeat.)

I literally cannot stress enough how sensitive he is — and it’s in ways that make absolutely no sense to you or me, yet it’s impossible to reason with him about these sensitivities.

Imagine if Hillary Clinton was living with Ann Coulter, and every time Hillary said something, Ann Coulter cried and went to her room — or had a violent outburst, either toward Hillary or someone nearby Hillary. Or toward just any old thing that was in the same room. Now imagine Ann Coulter had some talisman and when she was without those talismen, she behaved in ways that were not socially appropriate. The entire world is Hillary Clinton. Mineral is Ann Coulter.

After the second time we met, Megan suggested that we start fundraising, since a Service Dog is expensive. After emailing the few people I knew who have any kind of fundraising experience, I made a gofundme.com page and linked it to my personal Facebook.

  • The first donation was from an amazing woman named Joy, who I’ve “known” in the online world since Animal and Mineral were little babies.
  • The second donation was from My Chemical Romance’s sister, Julie, whose husband is currently training with the Army, while she’s home taking care of their son — and is pregnant! (I have three nephews, I’m really hoping for a niece.)
  • The third donation was from a friend of Julie’s, who saw the information on her Facebook page. How generous is that — we don’t even know them personally!
  • The fourth donation was from a homeschool mom who has taught Mineral twice in co-op. He loves her classes!

We met with Megan again on Friday, spending an hour in Costco with five kids, three adults and two service dogs. Megan helped Mineral work with one of the Service Dogs. Later she broke it down for me: She doesn’t think a Service Dog will help him ENOUGH to make the investment of time, money and energy worthwhile. Even when he’s on his ADHD medication, she thinks he lacks the focus to train consistently.

I can see that.

Further, she thinks it will be difficult within our family — for Mineral to have a dog that’s “his” yet still have to share it with the other kids, and for the other kids to see Mineral get a dog.

I can see that too.

She said that while she could get a dog and train with him, the effort would mostly be mine, not his, and that she didn’t think it was worth the time and money and effort I’d end up investing.

Ultimately, she’s the expert, and I think she’s right.

I was totally bummed out at first. But really, I just wish there was something — SOMETHING — that could help him be more “normal.” Occupational therapy helps, as does psychotherapy (his therapist recently said on the phone to me, “He’s REALLY sensitive,”) and speech therapy makes him better able to communicate. Psychiatry provides him with the meds that keep him as focused as possible. But even doing all that, he struggles, and I struggle as his mom.

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