Tag: save our scruff

Pet Swellness: Billie Jean’s origin story

Billie Jean puppy

Welcome to Who Do You Think You Are: Billie Jean Edition. 

I don’t know why it’s taken me over a year to look into Billie Jean’s origin story. Well, I know part of the reason is I often feel I don’t have time for anything…like all of us, ‘I am very, very busy,” haha. But the main reason is because when I asked Save Our Scruff about her back story when Billie Jean was my foster, all I was told was that she was at the rescue in the Dominican Republic for a year (and she was only a year old when she landed in Toronto, so she’d spent most of her life at a rescue) and I took this to mean little else was known about her.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I was on Facebook reading about another Scruff’s origin story and it included a link to a video of her dog, who also came from the DR. I watched it and then thought “How many rescues in the DR does SOS work with, can’t be that many…” so I clicked through to the Facebook page of Cocomutt Shak Dog Rescue and searched for “Billy Jean” (I changed the spelling to Billie Jean once I adopted her).

Billie Jean puppy 5

And BAM! Up came an album devoted to her! And my heart just about exploded. I never ever thought I’d see puppy photos of my sweetheart. I now look at them daily (and one is my screensaver, yes, I’m that person now).

Billie Jean puppy 3

A few days after that, I decided to message Cocomutt Shak. I explained that I’d been Billie Jean’s foster through Save Our Scruff and had ended up becoming one big foster fail. I let them know that she was doing great. I added that when she arrived she was extremely timid and terrified but that she has come so far, is now dog social and is great with people once she gets to know you a little. I asked if they could tell me anything about her as I was curious about her occasional anxieties and just wanted to know where my sweet pup came from.

And the lovely woman who runs it, Tauny, messaged me back right away! So what’s Billie Jean’s orgin story?

Billy Jean puppy 4

Billie Jean was being sold on the beach, her eyes were barely open and her ears not fully formed yet. When the woman could not sell her, she left Billie Jean on the beach. A beach vendor named Billy knew about the Cocomutt Shak rescue so they called them up and brought Tauny to see Billie Jean.

“We brought her home and she thrived. She was not too nervous here, but here she is surrounded by dogs and only Len and I.”

I shared some of Billie Jean’s recent photos, and Tauny told me she still had the beach bracelet they had on Billie Jean’s neck when she first lived with them at the rescue:

Billie Jean beach bracelet

And get this — they had to make the bracelet smaller to fit her week little neck! That’s how tiny she was!

Given puppies are best off to be with their moms until two months (that’s what I’ve always understood and what a quick Google search confirms), I consider it a miracle Billie Jean survived.

Billie Jean puppy 2

As for Billie Jean’s initial stressed-out state, I think it was due to not knowing anything other than Tauny and Len and the dogs she lived with. She went from living in a three-bedroom house (no kennels or crates) with the doors open so she  could come and go into the yard (which is on a half acre lot) as she pleased when Tauny or Len are home, to being stuffed into a crate, shoved into cargo on a plane and landing in a freezing climate and having a very excited person (me!) trying to show her love ASAP in a condo with a scary elevator and loud traffic and so many people all around . It’s no wonder she tried to bite me out of fear during our first interaction.

What is pretty wondrous is how quickly she adapted to life in the big city. I rejoice each time she playfully approaches someone in the park who wants to pet her or whenever she walks relaxed and happily beside me, but now knowing her beginnings and how her world was turned right upside down by coming to Canada (and making me the luckiest girl ever), every little success of hers is even more special. I’m so proud of her.

Thank you Cocomutt Shak for rescuing the most darling dog. It’s because of your care for this abandoned little beach bum that she made it into my life and I can never thank you enough for working with Save Our Scruff to help find her a forever home.

For more on Cocomutt Shak Dog Rescue, check them out on Facebook and Instagram. And Billie Jean’s got her own Instagram account, follow her @billiejeanxoxo.

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment June 11, 2018

Pet Swellness: Welcome home, Billie Jean

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“What have I gotten myself into???”

This is what I asked myself late the night of February 3rd. This was the night my first official Save Our Scruff foster dog, Billie Jean, was dropped off at my place by a transport volunteer (fostering means I open up my home to a rescue dog until it is adopted, and while in my care, help train it, bring it to vet visits, meet with trainers if needed and learn the dog’s personality so that the organization can find the right home for the dog).

Billie Jean had just landed from a rescue org in the Dominican Republic and she was cowering in sheer fear as far back of the crate as she could. I’d opened the crate door and was trying to convince her it was fine, and had reached in to pet her, and she had snapped at my hand. And I freaked out a little.

I left her alone for a bit, but then sat outside her crate chatting to her, thinking that’d be comforting. After awhile I went to add a blanket so she’d have something soft to sleep on, and she went to snap at me again. WTF. I went to bed and figured I’d figure out what to do in the morning.

I found out from the awesome team at Save Our Scruff that I was basically doing everything you shouldn’t do with a very terrified dog. The talking, the eye contact, the trying to pet her — this is all intimidating and scary. So I spent the day just cooking and hanging out at home, reading online about how to handle scared dogs. In the early afternoon, I saw Billie Jean had exited the crate and was sitting near it, so I sidled up to her slowly and just stood next to her and let her sniff my hand, which I just left by my side (I didn’t reach out — but had I, I would’ve done it palm up; learned this from the reading I’d done that day). She quickly returned to the crate, but a couple of hours later, she exited the crate and went straight onto my bed.

I’d have just let her hang out there alone til she felt less scared, but my cats were hiding in the closet, and I wasn’t sure what would happen if they emerged, so I thought I’d better be in the room, so I shuffled in slowly backwards and lay facing away from Billie Jean. After about 10 minutes, I reached back to let her smell my hand, and then later I pet her. She sat upright and tense, on guard, for about an hour before she felt comfortable enough to relax a little and lie down more comfortably.

That was one of our breakthrough moments in terms of our bonding, but getting her to go outside to walk was extremely draining, physically and emotionally, for both of us, I think. She’s only about 42 lbs but Billie Jean is surprisingly strong if she’s using every ounce of her being to resist me. I had to wrestle her into my arms to get her out of my door (and carrying a 42-lb dog is awkward!) and then she would burrow herself close to the wall or into the bushes.  So “walks” were really just me standing there with a terrified dog that was hiding. And there was no such thing as a quick walk, since the entire ordeal would take over an hour. The trainer’s email said that me facing away from the dog with light tension on the leash would be motivation for BJ to stay with me…which I had a good laugh about at the time, because Billie Jean had zero motivation to stay with me at all. Her only goal was to not be outside at all, and hiding and not moving in any way she could was her life mission. Neighbours would walk by with their dogs and chuckle sympathetically at me with the dog refusing to budge.

I was frustrated, heartbroken for this scared dog, and simply didn’t know how long I could foster this dog for because I didn’t have time to spend four hours a day walking her. I was low on patience. But I don’t like to give up, so I vowed to commit to two weeks of fostering her and seeing whether she’d improve. But I felt that maybe I simply wasn’t cut out for the commitment fostering calls for. Perhaps I’d been lucky with the rescue dogs I’d dogsat for SOS; they’d all been relatively well-behaved and mostly trained. Billie Jean was proving to be a lot of work and caring for her was all-consuming and I had stuff I had to do on top of fostering.

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And then, seemingly out of nowhere, on day 5, Billie Jean decided to walk outside. Getting her out the door eventually got easier as well. And after about a week we were walking more than an hour some days. After a visit with a Save Our Scruff trainer, we started on crate training and she took to that really quickly. Now she understands that meals take place in her crate and sleep time. This also helped her to learn that the bed and sofa are off limits, unless I allow her to (she still attempts to make it happen though! She’s persistent, we share that in common!).

She also got more affectionate with me. One day I walked into the bedroom and I thought I’d scared her, but it turns out Billie Jean was wagging her tail at me. I’d never seen her do that, which is why I didn’t realize what was happening at first. Another day, she was lounging in her Casper dog bed (which Casper generously gave me for my foster dogs) and I was on the sofa and I said “Hi, Billie Jean!” and she walked over, put one paw on my shoulder and licked my face. And I thought my heart would explode.

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I saw that she was great with the cats, and is very quiet (to this day, I’ve never heard her bark; I’ve only heard her growl at some dogs). And given her energy level and lean build and her breed (hound cross), I thought I’d try running with her, and she runs really well. She keeps alongside me at a good pace…but who’s kidding who, she could go much faster, she just maintains my now slow pace.

I can’t recall when I started considering adopting this cutie pie, but I knew with every day that it’d be hard to give her up. And when I got the email two weeks into fostering that it was time to fill out the Save Our Scruff paperwork so that an adoption listing could be written up, I was filled with panic that Billie Jean would no longer be in my life. I told SOS I was considering adopting her, and they gave me more time to think.

And over the next week, I talked to other dog owners about the realities of owning a dog.  I tried to work out which friends would be able to take care of her when I have to travel. I thought long and hard if whether this was the right dog, and the right time of my life for a dog.

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Because I’ve always wanted a dog. When I was living in Montreal, I’d often visit the SPCA there just to see the dogs. I’m always the one petting dogs on the street, even ones I probably shouldn’t be (street dogs in foreign countries, for example). I asked for a dog as a kid (denied!) and as an adult (also denied!), despite dropping hints each and every year how a dog would be the most incredible gift ever. About 10 years ago, I’d read several books about dog breeds and narrowed it down to a handful (with key factors being “good with cats” and “low energy” — this was before I became a runner!). I photocopied the chapters so that when I was ready to adopt, I’d have the info on the breeds that would work well with my lifestyle. It’s my love of dogs that lead me to volunteer with Save Our Scruff in the first place. I have the cats and have volunteered with cats, but I love dogs and cats equally (I think you can be both a cat and dog person!) so when I heard about SOS, I realized it was a way to get some time with dogs, or in the case of doing home visits initially (that is, making sure potential homes for the dogs are safe) that I’d be helping dogs in need of a loving home in my own small way.

And after more than a week of consideration, I decided Billie Jean had to be part of my family, and applied to Save Our Scruff and within a week, was told that Billie Jean would be joining my fur family. That week or so I spent debating the adoption, I truly needed that time to make sure I wasn’t making an emotional decision. But I believe the timing is right. And as much as I may have helped her, she’s also helped me. Last year was a hectic one, and 2015 was an awful one personally. In 2016, I ran around like a crazy person; I know to many people this will sound like first-world problems and that it’ll fall on deaf ears, but I simply traveled too much. I ended the year burnt out and knowing I need to travel less and have  more of a routine and make more time for me. And after five straight weeks at home in 2017, four of them with Billie Jean, who forces me to have a routine (minimum of three walks daily, meals at a certain time — although she’s not that demanding of a dog, tbh), I felt so much anxiety and stress melt away (except for that first week with her — then stress was at an all-time high trying to help this terrified pup adapt to life in Canada!). I’ve already started to turn down travel opportunities (both personal and work-related) so that I can be more rooted at home, but when I do travel, I have support of friends who I know will care for and love Billie Jean as much as I do. And life, thanks to Billie Jean, is better. Happier. More focused on the things that matter.

I’m looking forward to a lifetime of adventures with this new member to my family. I wasn’t expecting to be a foster fail, but am so thrilled that I am.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Save Our Scruff for bringing this beauty into my life and for all of your help along the way.

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Leave a Comment March 15, 2017

Fitness Swellness: Walking Woof Workout at Purina PawsWay

Popsicle

A little over a week ago I partnered with Purina PawsWay to host the fourth Walking Woof Workout. The others focused on food and architecture, for example, but mine was focused on getting in some exercise as you walk your dog. Our first date for the event was rained out, but on July 19, we were blessed with hot and sunny weather — very hot, in fact.

Walking Woof Workout group!

It was so hot that I scaled back the workout because I didn’t want people or dogs getting dehydrated. I was happy with the turnout, though. I’m guessing about 25 people came, and the Save Our Scruff (SOS is a dog-rescue organization) also joined with three of their lovable dog rescues, who we all immediately fell in love with. I mean, who can resist three-month-old Popsicle??? He was a little tuckered out from the first half of the workout as you can see here.

Popsicle!!!

 

And this here is Rolan, an adorable bundle of fur who is just shy of four months old who’s lovely owner came into town to check out PawsWay services. Rolan’s just a wee thing but he held his own in the walk.

Rolan!

I’d mapped out my route prior to the event, and had found hills we could do repeats on (look at Danielle and Tango crushing the hill repeats!), some paths we could sprint around, and more, but I ended up skipping the sprints.

hill sprints

We also used benches to do step ups, and I wanted to do tricep dips using benches but at this point the sun was strong and I could find a shaded set of benches, so I called that off as well. But I did tell the group we would do squats each time a dog relieved themselves; as you can imagine, we did a lot of squats…

step ups on bench

And it was fine to skip some of the exercises because many of us were just so enamoured with the adorable dogs and puppies. I wish all of the projects I work on could involve such cuties! This one here donned armbands for his workout:

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Thank you to everyone who joined in for my PawsWay Walking Woof Workout and to Save Our Scruff for attending as well (I’ve only just been introduced to the organization but I am volunteering with them and in fact, today, I have my first SOS volunteer task)!

group shot outside of Paws Way

Leave a Comment July 29, 2015


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