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Meet another Pet Pro,  Stacie Shaw, owner of Central Bark Doggy Daycare in Edina, Minn.
I met Ms. Shaw at a wonderful Winter-Weary-Westie Party she hosted last weekend for about 50 of my favorite critters. Her daycare has been credited for bringing Caleigh, a shy, frightened Westie, out of her shell. Her owner, Deb Theisen, says Caleigh’s been a changed dog, much more confident and eager to interact with others since coming regularly to Central Bark.—Sid

Stacie with Bailey and Hannah

After graduating from Marquette University, Wisconsin native Stacie Shaw faced a cardboard Jack Russell Terrier staring at her in her living room.  Having grown up with dogs, she wanted her own dog to share her life with. However her parents advised against it, saying, “You work such long hours, who will shower your dog with attention and love while you are at the office?”  Thus, Stacie’s parents delivered a cardboard terrier to hopefully satisfy her urge for a dog. The terrier was only a temporary solution.

In 1999 Stacie began volunteering with a rescue organization called GRROW (Golden Retriever Rescue of Wisconsin).  Through GRROW she learned of a puppy mill rescue trip to Iowa, and ultimately adopted one of the rescues – a 2 year female golden named Bailey.  Because Bailey led such an abusive, unhappy life prior to being adopted, Stacie sought opportunities for Bailey to gain confidence, trust, friendships, fun and love.  The right place was found at Central Bark Doggy Day Care, where Bailey became a regular. What an amazing difference Central Bark and its staff made in Bailey’s life!

That was how it started for Stacie (and Bailey, and later another golden retriever named Hannah). Stacie caught the Central Bark fever and there was no turning back. Meanwhile Stacie kept volunteering for dog-related causes and participating in animal-related courses, to learn all she could about the well-being of our canine friends.

The decision to pursue her dream of opening a Central Bark meant relocating, and Stacie chose the Twin Cities to be her new home. Ms. Shaw transitioned her volunteer efforts to RAGOM (Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota) and to Pets with a Purpose, where she and her dogs regularly visit Alzheimer’s patients. Stacie, and her canine consultants Bailey and Hannah, welcome you and your dog to visit Central Bark Eden Prairie and see what a positive impact we have on your dog, and on your parent/dog relationship.

Central Bark Doggy Day Care

6340 Industrial Drive

Eden Prairie, MN  55346

P) 952.224.4490


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I recently posted a request for a retirement home needed by a 14-year-old Westie whose owner had died. Well, Miss Paisley found her final forever home with Sue Storms of the Little White Terriers group here in Minnesota. Just wanted to praise Sue for bringing about such a happy ending and show off Paisley in her charming new outfit. This is one sweet and classy little dog!

Paisley

My hubby and I took our four Westies, Blanche, Keely, Ambrose and Oliver, to Central Bark indoor dog day care center in Edina, MN, yesterday for a Winter-Weary Westie party with about 50 other cute pooches of that marvelous breed. Much butt-sniffing fun was had by all the four-leggeds. (The humans, wisely, refrained from such interaction.) Everyone was asked to bring a pet-food donation for The Pet Project, and we wound up with a small truckload full! (The Pet Project is one of my favorite nonprofits because it supplies local food shelves with pet food and products so that owners who are facing tough financial times won’t have to lose their beloved animal family members. There’s no question but that everything you donate goes directly to needful animals. I’d just had my birthday party two days previous and had asked friends to do a similar donation in lieu of gifts for me, so we hauled over all of that as our donation at Central Bark.) While at the Westie party, one of the other pet parents brought out a healthful frozen dog treat that the pooches went bonkers for. I begged her for the recipe, which she kindly shared, below. Thanks so much!—Sid

Tasty Terrier Treats *

Combine and mix all of the following ingredients either by hand, in a blender or in a food processor:

1 qt. vanilla (or plain) yogurt

1/2 c. peanut butter

1/4 c. honey

1 ripe banana

Pour mixture evenly into a 9×13 cake pan, cover with foil and freeze overnight. Cut into little squares and store in the freezer in a Ziplock bag or Tupperware-type container.

* Edible by people and all other dog breeds as well.

These stories were compiled by Sue Storms of the Little White Terriers group here in Minnesota. My thanks to her for her tireless efforts to promote adoption of animals, Westies in particular. — Sid

A number of Westies were adopted this past year by members of our Little White Terriers group.  I have asked their new families to write their ‘love story’ to share with us. Who doesn’t love a happy ending?

Give your Westie an extra hug while you read these happy-ending stories.

Cleo (formerly Baer)

I adopted my Westie from a Craigslist ad that Sue had forwarded to me. I was skeptical, but something inside of me said to go ahead and email to find out more. And…I am SO glad I did.

Baer (now named Cleo) was very well taken care of by her family that lived in Stillwater.  She is a purebred Westie that was bred in Missouri and shipped to Minnesota and her family when she was 8 weeks old. I honestly don’t think they had time for her so they wanted to adopt her to someone who would take care of her the way a Westie should be. Since I owned a Jack Russell Terrier, they thought I was the best candidate (there were many people interested in her apparently).

She is not a show dog, but she is a show-off! She is probably the smartest, sweetest dog I have ever had. She will be 2 years old in March and she is a true Westie! Loves squirrling, loves car rides, walks and everyone she meets! Oh, and she is quite independent, but loves her time with me and my boyfriend (and his Doberman Pinscher puppy!).

She has gone to obedience class and is a quick learner. She goes everywhere with me and she’s been a great addition to my home since my Jack Russell Terrier passed away.

Thanks again, Sue! Merry Christmas and God’s blessings for a Happy and Prosperous New Year!
Andrea Manos

Angus – told by Sue Storms

Kris, a Westie Rescue Missouri (WRM) friend in Iowa, contacted me in November last year about an older Westie-boy in the shelter in Mason City, IA.  WRM was filled up – could we help? Those of you that know me, know how the older ones tug extra hard at my heartstrings, so Westie friend Judy Regan and I drove to Mason City.  Angus had quickly won the hearts of the shelter workers – he was not in a crate or pen; he had his own room! He was SO needy that he was at the feet or in the lap of someone all day long. If he got very far away from somebody, the barking began. He had come from an unpleasant, abandonment situation that we believe caused some of this anxiety (maybe all) so we knew he would need a family that could give him the attention he so badly needed.  John and Steph Wisecarver agreed to foster him so off he went to Maple Lake.  After spending one night with a new family, it was determined they could not care for him. He needed to be lifted up and down steps and his new mom was about to have knee surgery – that would not work! And the incessant barking when he was away from somebody was also not going to work….so back to John and Steph’s he went….and then where did he go? Nowhere!  They decided he had already been through enough and at his age, it wasn’t fair to put him through any more anxiety. So, “Angus Burger”, the needy, barky, demanding, snuggly old man, found his retirement home with the Wisecarvers and their pack.  He’s a happy old man!

A New Twist on Adopting Oliver, that Little Dickens

By Sid Korpi

Sometime last spring, I think it was, I dutifully posted to my “Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss” blog and its related Facebook page some pictures and a blurb about a Westie named Fonzie that needed a home. I tried not to look too closely at his adorable little face (for what other kind of face could a Westie possibly have?) because I was not in the market for any more animals in my home. We already had seven rescued pets—three pretty young Westies, two older cats and two finches. I didn’t want a fourth dog. I didn’t need a fourth dog. I knew I’d need my head examined for even for a moment considering adopting a fourth dog. Avoidance was my best defense against temptation…

NOTE: I ALREADY PUBLISHED THE WHOLE STORY ON THIS BLOG. TO READ THE REST, JUST SCROLL DOWN.—Sid

Higgins (formerly Mr. MacTavish)

by Cari Wolfe

When we lost Tyler, our 13 year-old Westie, in February of 2008, it seemed like a good time to further simplify our lifestyle and live without a Westie for the first time in nearly 30 years. We live in a downtown condo and while the building is pet-friendly and has a park right across the street, it’s not the same as opening the back door and letting the dog out. We enjoyed the “freedom” through the spring and much of the summer; coming and going as we pleased, not needing to get home to feed anyone or take anyone out, not having anyone to greet us when we got home…

That mindset lasted until some time in August when we started to actively seek out a non-puppy Westie to fill the gaps in our too-simplified lifestyle. We “met” Sue through some on-line research in September. She didn’t know of anyone who fit our profile at the time but said “you just never know when someone will turn up.” She advised us to apply with the Westie rescue organizations in Missouri and Nebraska since she could perform the home visit for them and we would be able to qualify even though we live out of their normal adoption areas. Only a couple of days later Sue contacted us and said that a scrawny little 2 year-old named Mr. MacTavish was about to be given up in Missouri and he might be just the boy for us. He would need some TLC, good food, and time, but he seemed like a good match.

The first pictures we saw looked a little like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, but Mac’s little face stole our hearts right away. Mac was turned over to Westie Rescue of Missouri and then Kris in Iowa fostered him for a couple of weeks to care for his skin problems and put some weight on his bones. On a Saturday in October we drove down to Iowa to finally meet Mr. MacTavish. What a lover he was from the first minute we saw him. He curled up and slept on my lap nearly all the way home with one relief stop along the way.

The first couple of weeks he was the biggest pleaser you ever saw. He couldn’t do enough to show us what a wonderful dog he was and what a good decision we had made to bring him home. We tried calling him Mac but it just didn’t seem to fit this tiny little guy, so he became Higgins. He never barked, he figured out the outside routine amazingly fast, he had no problem with being kenneled when we were at work, and was the all around perfect dog. Then he got comfortable, and confident, and crazy. Now he barks at many real and imagined events. He barks when we sneeze. He barks if he isn’t the center of attention.  He demands our attention and likes it best when the three of us are all within easy petting distance. He prefers family walks, hunts down anyone who may be planning to skip this particular outing, and is uncooperative about sitting still while the harness is put on until he’s sure we’re all going out together. He’s a sock savant, removing every sock (and only socks) from a pile of laundry and even makes a grab for the one you’re trying to put on your foot. He’s most content when he is in constant physical contact with his people, using our bodies as his personal lounge furniture.

And he is always right by the door to greet us enthusiastically when we come home. Higgins has been with us for over two years now and there is no comparison to the scrawny, furless, 11-pound, little anything-but-a-Westie looking boy we brought home. He’s all Westie and is a wonderful companion; we couldn’t be happier.

The Rescue of Kenzie and Caleigh

Deb Theisen

Hi! I’m Kenzie.

I am five years old, but I feel like a puppy. I try to forget my early years. My mom, sister and I don’t talk about it, it is just too horrible. But mom says sometimes it’s good to get it all out. So I’ll tell you my story.

There was a time when I lived in a crate. Day and night. I never got to be around good people, I was just around other dogs.  Lots and lots of dogs.  It was bad smelly (not good smelly), and noisy cuz everybody was always barking cuz they were hungry or cold or hurt. Nobody loved me or anybody else.  The people there were not very nice.  They yelled at me all the time and sometimes they hurt me. I wee’d and poo’d right through the grates in my crate. I got to eat but the food wasn’t very good.  I was left outside when it rained and when it stormed and when I hear thunder now, it reminds me of that terrible, terrible time in my life.

It was so humiliating. They made me have babies so they could make money.  Yes, I was a workin’ girl. It was awful. They made me have babies over and over, and I was such a good mother. I tried so hard to keep my babies. Even today when I see baby puppies, I try to take care of them and teach them stuff. Most of my babies were rescued, and went to good homes, thank God. I would be so upset if I thought their lives were anything like mine.

Then the good people of Westie Rescue of Missouri saved me! I was so scared, and so afraid. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to me. I went to live with Molly and 4 other good dogs in Iowa City so I could adjust to life outside that horrible crate. They used to call me Caroline. I had a great time there with everybody. Then one day last January, my mom came to get me.  Let Caleigh tell you her part, then I’ll tell you the rest.

Hi!  I’m Caleigh! (fka Sophie)

I’m the party girl in the family. (Did you know a caleigh is a party and dance in Scotland? I’m Scottish, you know.) I don’t remember much of my early childhood.  All I know is that I had a family, and I lost them somehow. I can be quite an escape artist. Sometimes that is not a good thing. Luckily, the good people at Friends of Animals in Junction City, Kansas found me. They tried to find my first family, but they couldn’t. They said I was “stray.”

So I was lucky and went to live with a family: a Cairn named Danny Zuko and two kids. They were really nice, but being the party girl I am, they thought I was just too much.  Danny wasn’t that much fun (I tried to get him to play with me, but he just got mad at me.) And the mom didn’t like it that I ate poo (hey, I was hungry! I had been stray, and I never knew when I was gonna get more food), so THEY GAVE ME BACK to Friends of Animals after one month. I couldn’t believe it. I am so much fun!

Cathy, at RC Kennels, told me they found me a good home with another new Westie.  I was so excited! (You see, I am the excitable type.) So I got all dressed up and got into a truck with some nice people that drove me to Des Moines, Iowa to meet my new mom. I was only nine months old. But I had lived a lifetime already.

I learned alot from my street friends. They said you got to make the best of every situation. And when you meet your people, make sure to love them up alot. That makes everything ok.  I learned good from them, cuz when I met my mom in the parking lot, I got out of the truck and ran right up to her and jumped up on her and gave her smooch after smooch. (that’s just one of the things I learned from my street friends.) Then we got in the car, and I laid my head in her lap.  I just knew she was gonna be a good mom.

Then we drove to Iowa City to meet my sister. She is SO pretty! And SO petite! I am tall and thin, and she is short and has that perfect Westie look with very soft hair. My hair is kinda thin, and coarse. Mom says she likes it that way – that I have the “scruffy” look, and I have to say I am quite proud that I look a little bit different from everyone else.

Mom says she drove 700 miles that day to get us. We had to stop at a hotel on the way home cuz it was too foggy to drive. I totally remember that it was VERY cold with snow. Neither me nor Kenzie knew how to walk on a leash. Mom tried to get us to wee outside, but we wouldn’t – it was too cold. She couldn’t get us to go thru the door at the hotel. Finally we got thru. Then as soon as we got inside the hotel room, we both wee’d right there on the carpet. It was hysterical!

We slept right there on the bed with mom that night. And every night since then. It is really cozy.

From Kenzie, the elder

We love our furever home and our mom. She takes us to all kinds of fun events. Our best people friend is our walker and sitter, Robin. She loves us as much as our mom. And every day when mom’s at work, she comes to take us out to see the squirrels. And whenever mom goes on vacation or travelling for work, then we get a vacation too, cuz Robin comes and stays with us and we have a big party the whole time.

We got to be in our first Westie parade this year. That was a ball! We really thought we were somethin’ else. All that attention. We deserve it! We have NEVER seen so many Westies. We get to go to Central Bark and see our good people friends Stacie and Micaela every week. And at Central Bark we are part of an awesome pack. We have SO MUCH FUN there.  And now we hang out alot with our cousin Gracy, she is a very cute doxie only four months old. We’re showing her the ropes.

My sister Caleigh is a super-star. She earned her STAR puppy award, her Canine Good Citizen award, and is now doing Agility classes at Dog Works. She has her own fun tunnel at home. And she is not even two years old. She is SO SMART, she learns everything very quickly. But she HATES to be away from me. If mom tries to take me somewhere without Caleigh, she lets out a scream that you wouldn’t believe.

I, Kenzie, now “go outside” to wee (well, most of the time.) I’m not afraid of stairs anymore and navigate them confidently (sometimes TOO confidently!) I do my “happy dance” every mealtime. I LOVE my food.  Am no longer afraid of other people, and I LOVE hanging out with other dogs. I LOVES to play toy. I am such a happy girl. I LOVE my life.

We are two super-happy, healthy, fun-lovin’ Westies. We love each other very much.  We let our mom do anything to us; brush our teeth, give us baths, brush our fur, put on coats, whatever she wants. Cuz we are so happy we found her. And she is so happy she found us.

Fred

by Anna Jacobson

My family has been a two-Westie family for about 10 years. That changed this May when we lost our almost 16-year-old Lindy.  I found out right before my finals week at Bethel so I felt the affect of loss right away. Our other dog Lucy hung in there though , even though she seemed lonely at times.  Lindy left a hole that needed to be filled, but we waited for a while because we wanted the right dog to join our family. We tried for one dog this fall, but because it didn’t work out we gave up looking for a while.

Then one Monday, Sue sent us an email with a link to a PetFinder site for a little Westie named Fred.  There was something about his picture and his description that moved us to give him a shot. My dad brought Lucy down to Owatonna to see if Fred would fit and he went home with them that same day.  (A sweet side-story that showed us Lucy was ready for a new brother: she rode in the front seat on the day down to Owatonna, but on the way back, she laid right outside of Fred’s kennel in the backseat.) His goofiness and affection have brought joy to our life every day since then and we couldn’t be happier to be a two-Westie family again!

Background on Fred: We adopted the almost 8-year-old from the humane society in Owatonna. He was originally from Arizona, but he is adjusting really well to his first MN winter!

Owen

by Kyle, Debbie, Andrew, and Erinn McIntyre

Owen was pictured on a Westie email this past September with “Fun” being described as his middle name.  We saw his story of being rescued from the St. Cloud pound and contacted Steph and John Wisecarver, who were his foster family.  We arranged a meeting at the Crossroads Animal Shelter and from the moment we saw him, we knew he would make a great addition to our family.

Owen gets along great with his older Westie brother Oscar (6 years old). Our Vet estimated that Owen was a little over one year old when we adopted him.  He has lots of energy and our family has had a lot of fun watching “our boys” play and romp through the house and yard.  They both love their daily walks and enjoyed the Scottie/Westie Halloween party this fall.  One of their favorite things to do is to sit side-by-side and watch for squirrels out the window (see attached photo).  We will sometimes catch Owen staring right at us, as if he is deep in thought.  We like to think that he is thinking about his fortune in becoming permanent part of our family.  Adopting Owen was the best thing we ever did!  (A special thanks to John and Steph Wisecarver for initially fostering Owen until we found him!)

How “Lucky Laddie” became “Duffy”

by Mary Ellen Otis

Laddie entered into foster care March 22, 2008.  He had been a stray in Winona, MN.  I’m sure he is does not have any show dogs in his background… the poor guy has a pretty skimpy coat that tangles easily so 2 minutes after he’s brushed he looks “scruffy”.  He’s got long, skinny legs and very large ears… the first time my groomer saw him her observation was, “My, you’ve got really good reception!”  I applied for a rescue dog after losing my 16 year old male Westie, Cruz.  Cruz’s daughter, Jazz, and I were very lonesome, the house was too quiet, and I knew we needed another little boy to make us laugh again.  It turns out I was the “lucky” one.  After talking with people and being approved, I drove down to Madison, to Jennifer’s house, where Laddie was being fostered.  He and Jazz hit it off right away.  Jennifer was a wonderful foster mom and gave me many good suggestions about rescuing a Westie.  After ‘sleeping on it’ over night, Jazz and I went back the next morning, having decided to take Laddie home with us.

Everything went smoothly on the way home… he was nicely crate trained and traveled quietly.  He came in the house and made himself at home right away.  I wasn’t satisfied with the name ‘Laddie’… Jennifer said she didn’t care for it either.  It just didn’t seem to fit him.  About a week or so later when I went out in the yard to get him I just happened to kneel down, put my arms out, and called “Duffy, let’s go” in a happy voice.  He tore across the yard and threw himself right into my lap as if to say “Well, what took you so long to figure out my name?!”

Duffy has been with us now since May 2008.  He’s been a welcome addition to my home and heart.  He and Jazz play together a lot… he’s keeping her young at eleven years of age.  We have had a few problems along the way.  I had to get used to his vocalizations.  He’s a talker and sometimes the talking sounds like growling and sometimes it is growling.  We had a couple of discussions about who’s chair it was… if I got out of the chair he would jump back up and when I returned he didn’t want to move over… so he would growl and try to tell me it was his chair.  After dumping him out a couple of times he got the message and there hasn’t been a problem since.  He’s never had an accident in the house, he gets along well with other dogs that come to visit and he absolutely loves kids.  He gets a little excited if they run around and yell, but all it takes is one or two reassuring words and he’s fine.  I did as Jennifer suggested and put a chair by a window so he could keep an eye on things outside.  In the summer it’s on the screened in porch and in winter it’s in the dining room.  The mailman has made friends with him by offering treats when he’s being barked at, which I thought was very nice.

Duffy loves to go in the car.  We go to visit my grandkids where there is a bigger yard and he has a lot of fun racing around wildly, playing with the kids, chasing Jazz and any squirrel that appears.  He also likes to go to the dog park nearby & does well with all the excitement of groups of dogs.  He still barks at things on the television… watching Animal Planet became a whole new experience!  Earlier this year his barking annoyed the neighbors quite a bit, but we talked about it, I did a little more training, and they do a little more talking to Duffy through the fence so things have been much better.

We’ve done some obedience training also.  He is so smart and learns quickly.  He loves the mark and treat type of training very much and seems to have a lot of fun… very food oriented.  I tried the conventional training also, but that didn’t go as well.  They wanted me to put a pinch collar on him and that just shut him down.  So we’ve gone back to the other type of training.

He still jumps like he’s on a pogo stick when I’m getting the food ready… the grandkids get a big kick out of that!  He doesn’t “guard” his food, and doesn’t argue about food with Jazz… he really does have good manners.  He’s never tried to run away even when the gate has been left open a couple of times.  He actually will come as long as I don’t yell too loud!  He still whines when he thinks he’s been ignored long enough… especially when I’m on the computer.  One day he was pestering me, then started sniffing around on the floor by the desk, and the next thing I knew he had put his paw on the surge suppressor and turned off the computer!  As I mentioned, he’s very smart!

There were times when I didn’t think I had it in me to adjust to a dog I hadn’t raised from a puppy.  But Duffy has earned his way into my heart.  He is such a loving little dog.  Everyone that comes to visit likes him.  He is so funny and playful… he and Jazz make me laugh every day.  Another benefit from having him… he needs a lot of exercise so I have been walking him every day… last winter I walked every day even when it was 20 below!  We might only make it around the block but we do it, rain or shine.  He appreciates it and it’s certainly keeping me healthy and happy.  I wish I had better words to convey how much enjoyment he brings.

Many thanks to everyone in Wisconsin Westie Rescue for letting me have this darling boy.  I appreciate everything you’ve done and continue to do for these dogs.  Jennifer, thanks for being such a good foster mom, answering all my questions and helping me through a few tough spots.  Duffy has found his ‘forever home’ and filled a big hole in my heart.

We hope you have enjoyed reading these happy-ending stories!

“Adopting a dog will not change the whole world, but it will change the whole world for that one dog.”

A New Twist on Adopting Oliver, that Little Dickens

By Sid Korpi

Sometime last spring, I think it was, I dutifully posted to this “Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss” blog and its related Facebook page some pictures and a blurb about a Westie named Fonzie that needed a home. I tried not to look too closely at his adorable little face (for what other kind of face could a Westie possibly have?) because I was not in the market for any more animals in my home. We already had seven rescued pets—three pretty young Westies, two older cats and two finches. I didn’t want a fourth dog. I didn’t need a fourth dog. I knew I’d need my head examined for even for a moment considering adopting a fourth dog. Avoidance was my best defense against temptation.

Maybe a month or more passed, however, and an updated “Fonzie still needs a home” message landed in my email’s in-box. This time, masochist that I apparently am, I read his story a bit closer. It was an all-too-typical story of the owners having had and loved this dog for years, but since they’d decided to have kids, now it was time to get rid of the superfluous pooch. (My ire was raised, a dangerous sign.)

Compound that with the fact that the people who had advertised this dog on craigslist, Fonzie’s current caregivers, weren’t even that aforementioned newly child-laden/dog-rejecting couple. That meant that this dog was being had already been shuffled from home to home and was no doubt feeling insecure, confused, and rejected. The fact that he was being given away free of charge, I later learned, spoke to the second family’s desperation to be rid of him.

Out of morbid curiosity, I called the then-current caregiver, who told me Fonzie had always been an only dog in his household and hated cats—I did a couple mental checkmarks in the this-won’t-work-for-us column.

While I was talking to this woman about Fonzie’s inability to relax, his incessant barking, and his aggressive growling toward her 11-year-old son, who has impulse-control issues himself, I told her I wished her luck but that I would highly recommend this dog be placed in an adults-only household, preferably retirees who could spend a great deal of time with him, and that he remain an only dog.

But this family was anxious to be rid of Fonzie now, as they were just about to leave for a two-week vacation, during which time this dog would be in his crate the whole time between a few scheduled potty breaks. As we finished our conversation, an older man had arrived to check out Fonzie, so I was hopeful my wish for this dog would come true.

Glutton for punishment that I am, I called the next day to check on the outcome, hoping for a happy ending to share on my blog. The woman described how critical the man had been of Fonzie, checking him out as though he were being judged at a dog show, even though a neutered 6-year-old was never going to be in the running for such a competition. Apparently, Fonzie’s head was too big and his tail too short, or something irrelevant like that, and the man rejected him.

I realized this was likely a case of dog flipping, wherein a dubious person nabs free pure-bred dogs only to re-sell them for full price. Disgusted by this man’s callous behavior and feeling sorrier than ever for this dog, I posited that we might drop by the next day just to introduce Fonzie to our three Westies—Blanche, Keely, and Ambrose—and see how he was with other dogs. I figured their interaction would clinch for me forever that this was not meant to be, so I could then walk away with a clear conscience. At best, this was just supposed to be a play date.

Well the family had just left for their vacation, but we were put in contact with a neighbor of theirs who had a house key and was familiar with Fonzie. We advised her to meet us out on the sidewalk with the dog on his leash, and ours would be in the same condition, so we could just take a walk together and not trigger any unnecessary territoriality issues.

Our pack met this pooch with friendly indifference and we walked. Fonzie seemed to be limping somewhat and had some trouble keeping up with our normal brisk pace. The neighbor told us the extent of his walks were super-slow gambols around one block, so he was probably just out of shape. As we regularly took our dogs for three-mile jaunts around the cities’ lakes, again, I was thinking this dog, cute though he was, was not a match for us and our household’s energy level.

As a final test, we entered the family’s fenced-in yard and took all the dogs off their leashes. Instantly, Fonzie was transformed. He ran full bore around and around the yard, playing tag with our pack of pooches. He looked like a puppy. The neighbor’s voice choked a bit as she said, “If that dog were to die today, you could know this was the happiest day of his life.”

Damn her.

We loaded up his kennel, food, toys, etc. and walked our new “kid” to the car.

Because of his white color and unconfident demeanor, so different from the black-leather-jacket-wearing Arthur Fonzarelli (Fonzie) from “Happy Days,” we simply couldn’t call him that name. It just didn’t suit him, and we wanted him to have a clean slate with us. As we drove toward a park for another walk with the dogs, I blurted out, “Let’s call him Oliver, after Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. He was an orphan who eventually got adopted into a terrific home.”

I’d wanted to go to a shady park because it was very hot that day, but my husband insisted we go to Como Park instead. Once there, I saw why. There in front of us, posted at the entrance to the Como Park Pavilion was a large play bill advertising their musical, reading, “Playing tonight, Oliver!”

After our walk, as we drove home, we passed a single political sign in someone’s yard, urging people to elect Trevor OLIVER for some local office! (Oddly enough, I’ve looked but never noticed that person’s sign anywhere else in St. Paul since that day.) We acknowledged that something bigger than us was guiding this whole affair, but at least we were sure we were getting the message and doing the right thing by this dog.

Fast forward to our last several months with Oliver, we have spent over $1,000 on surgery for this supposedly “free” dog when it was discovered he had had a large bladder stone and a big cyst on his back that both needed removal. We had his teeth cleaned while he was under anesthetic, too, giving him a total tune-up.

He has big-time trust issues, meaning he won’t come when you call or reach for him and growls if you pick him up. He also has a tremendous amount of fear, triggered by any new sound, including and especially that made when we open the blinds or a window. We suspect that Oliver’s blinds-triggered response especially is past-trauma-based because of the horrific “screams” that come out of him when he hears that sound. That’s pure terror coming from this poor dog, not dominance barking as we’d once thought.

Oliver has bitten my husband pretty severely 11 times as he simply tried to soothe the crazed dog after a blind was inadvertently opened in his presence! The moment afterward, however, Oliver comes out of his hysterical trance and meekly kisses Anthony’s bloodied hand as if to say, “I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean to do that! I really couldn’t help it.” (To his credit, my husband has never blamed Oliver for these instances. He knows he should have had a better hold of the dog’s head when easing him into a down-stay position to try and relax him.)

There are signs of great progress, too, fortunately. For the most part, being a member of a pack has helped him learn to be a dog and to play. Oliver’s favorite thing to do is to lightly clamp his teeth around the base of Ambrose’s tail and let the 27-pound giant Westie drag him around the room—simply hilarious to witness. He’s doing great on our walks and even does short runs with my husband while Anthony rides his bike. He’s enjoying a healthful raw-food diet that’s settled his tummy and is keeping his teeth shiny and white. Recently, he discovered our fireplace and is blissed out over being able to lie in its warmth, soothing what we suspect may be a touch of arthritis in his front leg.

He has learned to get along with one of our two cats, Xander, who knows how to work Westies by standing still and giving them nothing to chase and presenting an elevator butt for the dogs to sniff. But 14-year-old Giles has begun hissing and growling occasionally in Oliver’s presence, possibly because the senior kitty isn’t feeling well himself or because he’s neurotic and has a death wish—we haven’t decided which—the sound of which sends this fearful new dog into an apoplectic fit of barking, thus triggering the other dogs to recall, “Oh yeah, that’s right, we’re pack animals, too. Let’s help him terrorize the cat we normally like just fine.”

Yelling, screaming, flailing and even growling hasn’t dissuaded them out of the red zone when they’re attacking in unison. But, I’ve discovered purely by accident that if I make a clipped, high-pitched screech-like sound myself, it almost magically snaps Oliver out of his barking fit. This throat-straining sound of mine has cut short some really deafening bark-fests, I tell you. I’m thinking of making a CD…

So, though still a nervous “Grumbly Gus,” Oliver is showing ever-increasing signs of his love bug side emerging. His issues are severe enough that I recognize the former caregivers, who were dog-owning newbie’s, simply weren’t equipped to handle a Westie with such debilitating issues beyond just being a terrier, which can be challenging enough by itself. (Though we don’t know for sure, we doubt he was actually abused by his former owners. More likely, these deeply ingrained neuroses stem from his being a puppy mill dog.)

Lucky for Oliver, we’re a Westie-wise home and stubborn enough to persevere through his worst behaviors, though at my own times of high stress I have told Oliver in exasperation—usually while the cat is shivering in fright, yanking out tufts of his fur, and no longer joining the family in any activities we once shared when he felt safe—“You’re here for the long haul, but I see why other people had to give you up, dog.”

We L-O-V-E our most recent adoptee, Oliver, and he has found his forever home with my hubby, Anthony, our menagerie, and me despite anything in this story that might be construed as second thoughts on our part about that. I just thought giving folks a factual, rather than euphemistic account of an actual rescue would benefit some of them in their decision-making.

My advice to everyone, do adopt a shelter animal, please! Just don’t wear rose-colored glasses when you go pet shopping. We lucked out repeatedly over the years with several quickly adjusted rescues—this is the first time we’ve had actual ongoing conflict between any of our four-legged family members—but we had to be prepared for challenges like those presented by our dear little Oliver. He will likely be our greatest teacher yet, and for that we thank him and welcome his sweet kiss on our chins.

 

 

Please tune in to my four dogs’ stellar performance as fuzzy little lumps of love during my appearance on the final episode of Donna Chicone’s Emmy-nominated cable access program, “The Dog Show with Jazz.”

On the set of The Dog Show

Someone recorded the majority of the 100 Westies parading down a main street in Wayzata, MN, dressed as firefighters during the James J. Hill Days celebration’s Westie Walk Parade.

The challenge is to find us. If you look closely at the upper left corner, starting at about 43 seconds in, you can see my husband Anthony Kaczor coming. His shirt is a lighter red than the bulk of the T-shirts being worn and has little sailboats all over it, and he has on black shorts. I’m slightly ahead of him and to the right, mostly obscured by other people and with my head cut off. (I never looked better, believe me!) My blouse is a deeper red than that of the T-shirts of most of the participants, and I’m wearing a black skirt and tights. We are each walking two of our dogs apiece, Keely & Ambrose and Blanche & Oliver, respectively.

I love the slogan my friend, pet photographer Patrick Nau of Minneapolis, uses regarding having your pet’s portraits taken: “Don’t say, ‘I wish I had,” say, ‘I’m glad I did.'”

The photos below of my three West Highland white terriers were taken as part of an annual fund-raising event through the Photographer’s Guild of St. Paul, Minnesota. If you made a donation to Pet Haven Animal Rescue, your photo session for as many pets as you brought in at one time was free and so was one 8×10 photo. (Of course, they wind up with about 100 more  shots you’d love to purchase beyond that, too. And I did, naturally. One such triptych follows below.)

The point is to celebrate your pet’s life all through his/her life, not just as a memorial after he/she dies.

Now, prepare to enjoy my own personal BRAG BOOK of sorts! Click on any images you want to see full size.

Blanche, Keely and Ambrose 2010

photos by Photographers Guild of St. Paul, MN


Final Farewell Photos

Many pet photographers are starting to offer special deals to owners of elderly or seriously ill pets, allowing them to affordably capture their beloved animal companion’s image before it’s too late. If you do miss out on such a photo session, though, you can still memorialize your pet with a pet portrait drawn or painted by an artist from one of your own snap shots.

I’ve yet to meet anyone who’s felt they’d wasted their money after doing either of these things. Ali Jarvis of the Sidewalk Dog recently lost her dog Luc, and though she was initially unsure if she could emotionally withstand having her terminally ill boy in a photo, she had Sarah Beth Photography take the pictures. She is now beyond grateful that she did it. The photos allow her to stay connected with her sweet boy forever.

Ali Jarvis and Luc on his last day. Photo by Sarah Beth Photography.

Another great photographer in the Twin Cities area is Becky Kalin, Lucky Mutt Photography; see her website for her terrific portfolio.

A pet portrait by Peggy Krizak

Above is a beautiful sample Wisconsin artist Peggy Krizak’s work. Contact her at Peggy Krizak’s Pet Portraits.

A final plug is due pet portrait artist Jessie Marianiello of Stray Dog Arts. Go to her site to see more of her wonderful work. Below is a favorite of mine by her:

Lou the singing dog, by Jessie Marianiello

All of the aforementioned photographers/artists are fellow members (with me) of the Pet PAC, a networking association of Minnesota pet-related businesses. I can vouch for their abilities and integrity!

I know it’s a hot button to bring up the teachings of “The Dog Whisperer,” Cesar Millan. People seem to either love him or hate him and his philosophy, and I’m not going to open that whole discussion here. What I am here to say, however, is that I used his techniques today and spared myself and my three Westies—Blanche, Keely and Ambrose—from falling victim to an attack by a charging rottweiler mix.

Here’s what happened. I was walking my pooches along Minnehaha Parkway in Minneapolis when I saw coming toward us a 20-something man and his two big dogs, a huge white Pyrenees Mountain dog and a rottie mix. His two dogs nearly overwhelmed him with their bucking, barking and general “I want to kill those Westies” behavior.

FYI: A Pyraneese Mountain Dog (not THE dog in the story)

A Rottweiler mix similar to the one in the story.

My dogs, to their credit, stayed quiet and calm. (I’d like to take a moment to brag about my dogs if I may. I’ve received several comments from strangers, while we’re out on our walks, who have noted what well-behaved Westies I have. This was not always so, and I thank Mr. Millan for his dog-walking tips that have taken 95% of the squirrel-chasing chaos out of our strolls.)

Anyway, back to the story. We steered clear of those aggressive dogs and went on our merry way. Some time later, on our return trip, however, I saw we were going to cross paths with them again. I casually took my dogs several yards off the sidewalk to give them a wide berth. The Pyrenees went ultra ballistic this time, which I found worrisome, because the dog had to weigh well over 120 pounds. But what really startled me was the 70–80-pound rottweiler mix—who broke free of its collar and came charging at us!

The young man hollered fruitlessly to recall his dog, as he was still struggling with the Pyrenees. Normally, I’d have screamed bloody murder to see my dogs and myself under attack, but something clicked in my brain and I immediately thought WWCD? (What would Cesar do?)

I stood with legs firmly planted, pulling my dogs (who were surprisingly calm and still during this) somewhat behind me. I used a visualization technique to see myself as the pack leader protecting my pack from this intruder. The energy I sent out was filled with pure “You will NOT touch my pack!” authority.

I then used a loud, assertive voice to yell sharply, “Hey! NO!!” as I pointed down to the grass for him to drop there, and I—with heretofore never experienced complete confidence in a crisis—stared down this bully breed. With his hackles still raised from the attack, that rottie stopped dead about four feet away from us and dropped to the ground. His owner, still 20 yards away, continued to call to the dog ineffectually. I gave the rottie one last “NO!!” when he looked like he might challenge me, I added a final “Don’t you even think it!” look and calmly walked away with my astoundingly balanced pack of Westies.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the term “Minnesota Nice,” which refers to Minnesotans’ typical tendency to be hyper agreeable/passive so as not to upset anyone else, despite how detrimental such behavior may be in certain situations. In that split second, I said to myself, “Screw Minnesota Nice! I don’t give a ‘bleep’ what this guy thinks of my tone being used on his unruly dog. One of us humans has to show them who’s pack leader, and it obviously isn’t him!”

How empowering!

I’d never been prouder of my dogs or myself—in relation to my dog parenting. Had I not watched a gazillion episodes of “The Dog Whisperer,” I am certain I’d have screamed and tried to flee as the charging dog bore down on us, no doubt redoubling his predatory instinct. I shudder to think what the result would have been of that strategy.

(My certainty arises from past experience. I actually had that very thing happen several years ago when a neighbor’s pit bull broke free and came charging, clearly hoping to make me and my former Westie, Ludwig, her lunch. It didn’t help that the owner hysterically screamed for us to “RUN!!!!” as her pit bull went into attack mode because she knew she’d be unable to stop her dog. I barely got the two of us into our yard and shut the gate when Jasmine, her 10-month-old pit bull puppy, who was normally friendly, at least to humans, crashed into it and kept leaping and snapping at us until her owner came by to subdue her with a broom!)

That was a pretty traumatic experience for me, but thanks to Cesar Millan, I no longer automatically lump all the bully breeds into the “BAD DOG” category. I bawled when I learned of his pit bull Daddy’s death. But, I do harbor a great resentment toward owners of those breeds who either encourage aggressive behaviors in their dogs or simply don’t take seriously their responsibility to properly control and train them—for the sake of other people and their pets, as well as for their own dogs’ sake. To those people, I say,  “BAD OWNERS! BAD OWNERS!!”

Now, I just hope that young man I encountered today starts some kind of training course to get better control of his two clearly potentially dangerous, dog-aggressive canines.

This past weekend, Sue Storms, our wonderful organizer of all things Westie-ful and fun, got us and our West Highland White Terriers together at the Dog City Dog Park in New Hope, Minnesota, for an afternoon of sniffing, playing and treats. Thanks, Sue! Here are a few shots of the cute group.

Doggie Treadmills at Dog City

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