It has been a long and crazy journey so far with our foster Sawyer. He came to us with little knowledge of household life, meaning that everything from using stairs to cuddling on a couch appeared new to him. It’s been tough at times, battling anxieties, confronting his fears, ensuring we provide the best home for him… but I can finally say we are seeing some amazing progress.
I’m not sure if anyone else has dealt with this from a rescue, but Sawyer’s biggest issue was not going to the bathroom outside. He gets very distracted on walks and can be skiddish, so we don’t make much progress with potty time. We have, however, found a remote park near our house with lots of great smells, no cars and few distractions that has helped him to overcome many of his fears. We have resigned to long walks in the park each morning and evening, which helps to ensure that Sawyer feels comfortable enough to go outside.
Yesterday, Sawyer spent the entire day outside as my fiance worked on the yard, taking in the views and getting a lot of belly rubs. I think this just might work out!
Kona has long been a tough dog to walk– always pulling, excited by everything and revving to go. We have tried everything from walking with treats to stopping when she would pull, often searching the internet late into the night to find new ways to work with her.
About two weeks ago, we were at the Pet Expo in Edison and were introduced to the “Gentle Leader.” For those of you not familiar with a Gentle Leader, it is a headcollar that encircles the dog’s muzzle and wraps around the neck, looking something like this:
Gentle Leaders are humane (my biggest concern) and help to immediately show the dog that the walker/owner is in charge. The lead also helps to eliminate pulling and helps to control the strength of larger dogs.
While Kona was not exactly pleased with the first experience, I have continued working with her and feel we are making progress. Her favorite food is cheese, making it a high-value reward, so I always bring some with me to assist as we go. When she walks nicely on the lead– next to me without pulling– I reward with her a small piece. If she pulls, I immediately correct her and regain her attention, treating her upon changed behavior.
To learn more about the Gentle Leader, click here.
Winter always takes its toll on us, keeping us inside and forcing us to find new activities to entertain the dogs. We were lucky enough this past weekend to experience some rather warm weather, so we took advantage of it by doing some hiking around our new house.
We spent about two hours hiking the paths around Lambertville, taking in some fresh air and expelling some energy. The dogs certainly enjoyed the hike!
They say a picture is worth a thousand words…
I love how Sawyer’s personality– his essence– is captured in this picture. Soulful, gentle, always pondering…
Sawyer came to us from a shelter, where he had lived for almost two years. Prior, he was an outside-only dog, left tied to a pole and rarely fed until a neighbor finally reported the abuse.
The relationship has required about as much learning on our part as it has on Sawyer’s. The first week was spent teaching him the ins and outs of home living– helping him understand the bathroom routine, getting him on our schedule, teaching him about playing and cuddling and being loved.
Sawyer naturally wants to please, so we were blessed in that sense. He tries very hard, is eager to do things correctly and only asks for some petting as a reward. While it is strange working with a dog that is not food or treat motivated, it’s been exciting to uncover the things that do make him respond.
We are still working with him to learn stairs, which seem to really scare him, as well as walking on wood floors. He seems unsteady and uncomfortable, but is slowly coming along.
His favorite thing is laying under a blanket. Each night, I take it out when it’s time to settle down and sit on the couch. Soon after, Sawyer joins me, snuggling up under the blanket and laying with me as we watch TV. I think this blanket helps him to adjust and feel comfort, and I’m pretty sure he loves the routine.
So, here’s to many more nights, cuddling together and making our way through the adjustment to a new home:
So I realize I have taken quite a long break from writing on this blog site.
Besides moving homes twice (due to our condo association passing a rule banning pit bulls from the property), we had a pretty rough few months. We did buy our first house together (yay) with lots of room for our dogs to run free, which makes us both extremely happy. However, we did end up losing Chloe a few months back.
Nothing hurts like losing someone you love. Chloe was more than a dog to me– she was really an angel that came into my life when I needed her most, and stuck by my side throughout all of the ups and downs. Shortly after, we were lucky enough to have Shaun come into our life, and I think Chloe only helped to strengthen our relationship. We spent countless hours driving to South Jersey to bring her to an abuse specialist/behaviorist, and even more working with her ourselves. I will always remain grateful for Shaun’s willingness to jump right in and help me. He never hesitated, and he was willing to bend over backwards for this dog he hardly knew. I think this made me love him all the more.
Chloe opened my eyes to rescuing dogs and providing them with a better home. She consistently showed us love, when she had hardly ever experienced love herself. What should have been a mean, angry dog was instead a loving, eager-to-please part of our family.
I will always miss Chloe and will never forget her. She taught me so much.
In her honor, we began looking into a potential new addition to our family, almost too soon. While it was emotionally draining at times, it has proved to be an amazing experience. World- meet Sawyer… our amazing, courageous boy.
Brought into the shelter at only 35lbs, he is now a healthy, happy 90 lb boy. This poor boy has never before been in a home, so life can be scary at times for him. Slowly but surely, he is learning to play with toys, use stairs, and is mastering some basic commands. He grows so much each day and really has become an integral part of our family.
Here’s to the next chapter in our lives…