Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Whimsical Adventure of Miss Mia

After her adoption-day breakout, we took little Mia back to her new home. Before leaving, we explained that she should probably stick to the house and the backyard for at least a week or two: she still had major hang-ups about new situations, and we were in fact adding the appearance of abandoning her again. Mia would need time to adjust and get comfortable, and once she welcomed people home with a wagging tail and greeted each morning with her particular snuggle-attacks, it would be relatively safe to begin taking on the challenges of the outside world.

The next afternoon, we got a worried telephone call - Miss Mia was gone again. Okay, we thought, We've done this before. If we get out there quickly...

But this time was different. Her new owner had taken her out for a walk the night before, figuring "it was quiet enough outside." Five paces out the door, she twisted her way out of her collar and bolted. She returned to the house a short while later, but a group of noisy teenagers on bicycles startled her, then chased her away. Not wanting to bother us after the day's earlier dog-hunt, they waited sixteen hours before throwing in the towel and calling us. It was a case of best intentions complicating things terribly: in that short amount of time, a frightened dog can theoretically travel only a few blocks, or up to 30 miles.

Regardless, we grabbed the intrepid search party from the day before (both two- and four-legged), and set to work. Five hours later, we had scoured all of the nearby woodlands to no avail. Broken-hearted, exhausted but still determined, we slogged our weary way home.

The next two weeks were a frustrating litany of posting flyers and missing pet listings, poring over the intake photos at every animal shelter in a 30-mile radius, and driving to any shelter that had a medium-sized, smooth-coated black female dog (as you could guess, that was pretty much all of them). Sophie even spent a day combing the woodlands again, this time with a couple of wonderful volunteers from a local Search and Rescue group. (Note: They did this as friends, NOT as part of an official search. No dogs were used, just human eyes and voices.) They helped her look - checking every place they could think of where a forty-pound dog could reasonably hide - and lent their keen eyes, level heads, and sympathetic shoulders to lean on when things seemed desperate and futile.

Almost a week later, the phone rang again. "Are you the people who are missing the little black dog? The shy one with the white toes? I think I saw her twice today." A woman had been walking her dog near where Mia had disappeared, and recognized her from the flyers we had put out. Even better, she had been spotted in the same area twice.

At dawn the next day, our dilapidated van rumbled to a halt near the narrow greenbelt where Miss Mia had been spotted. Sophie and Amelia cut north along a wooden fence line that smelled promising; Rufus and I skirted around to the southwest to check a creek lazing its way haphazardly through the wooded area.

About ten to fifteen minutes later, "Team Cornchip" reached the head of the creek. Rufus bounded around distractedly, finally settling near a small cluster of trees in order to relieve himself. Checking my pockets, I came to the maddening realization that Sophie had all of the clean-up bags with her. As Rufus stretched and began shaking off his "just-arrived jitters," I called Team Amelia and crossly discussed the dogs' seeming lack of focus, and the need to coordinate and divvy up the toiletries. We agreed to meet back up, where we'd decide whether to continue with the dogs in tow or not. I hung up the phone, and turned back to Rufus.

Suddenly, his nose shot up in the air. Taking two greedy breaths, he barked sharply. A heartbeat later, he lunged for the creek nearby. As we raced toward the water, there was little doubt he'd caught an exciting scent; exactly what was rustling through the bushes on the opposite bank was still unclear. I called out as we ran, and Rufus called out with me.

Then a pointy black nose popped out of the bushes. It was followed by two round, surprised eyes, and finally a whole dog emerged from the greenery. My heart leaped. And then Mia leaped. Straight into the rivulet between us, and the tangles of greenbriar below.

What followed would have doubtless looked comical from a different vantage point, with me lunging into the creek up to my thighs, desperately trying to extricate Mia with one hand while unsuccessfully trying to keep Rufus from diving in with the other. By the time we all scrambled back up the bank, we were soaked, muddy, and overjoyed. I hugged Miss Mia close to me as I dug in my pack for a slip-leash, and was rewarded with the overpowering smell of skunk musk. Apparently, we were not the first to find her in her leafy hideout.

After a thorough cleaning and a trip to the vet, Mia returned home - to our home. Maybe some day she will have confidence and courage to face the wide world, but that's a struggle she can take at her own pace now, safe in the knowledge that she'll have a home and a family that will always be there when she needs them (human and canine alike).

PS. from Sophie: The other family had already adopted another dog by the time we found Mia. Thus, we formally adopted her ourselves.


A lot has been going on in the life of Rufus and his pack, although I have been hesitant to write it down; perhaps I'm worried about jinxing everything. Sophie reminded me yesterday, however, that this is supposed to be a chronicle of the Wooferdog, come what may. So I'll try to get things caught up a bit.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Big Damn Heroes

One of Rufus' foster siblings, the shy and timid Mia, was adopted this weekend by an absolutely fantastic family - loving, understanding, patient and good at making timid dogs feel right at home; pretty much an ideal family for her. We brought her over yesterday for an overnight visit to see if she would be a good match for them and their other dog, a happy-go lucky dachshund.

Well, earlier today we got a call: Miss Mia had dashed underfoot, out of the front door and away. They had managed to follow her to a huge field that led into a wooded area. Tim and I leashed up Rufus and Amelia and went to see if we could help find her.

None of our dogs has any real Search and Rescue training, and whenever we hide the squeaky toy around the house, Rufus is the only one who reliably can and will go find it. Nonetheless, we both knew that if anyone had a chance of finding a tiny, scared dog in the middle of nowhere, it would be another dog. But would they focus on her scent - assuming they even encountered it - or would they be distracted by every bug, bit of trash and smelly patch instead?

When we got there, Tim took Rufus, I took Amelia and we gave them Mia's adoption vest to smell. They both eagerly snuffled it for several seconds and then seemed to say, "Okay, we got it." Upon leaving the van, they both lunged ahead, dragging us both at top speed around the outer edges of the wooded area closest to where we parked. Amelia seemed insistent that we check out a private residence hidden at the end of a long driveway, so while Tim and Rufus penetrated deeper into the woods around the creek, Amelia and I went poking around the house which was luckily unoccupied at the time. I had no idea if she was following a particular scent or just being nosy but I had to trust her nose since it was the only tool I had other than my voice to call for Mia.

We then poked around the field a few times, but Amelia seemed to lose steam and become anxious so we crossed the street to look around the apartments a bit. When we crossed the street again, back towards the woods, we saw Mia's adoptive mom also searching along the edges of the woods. She led us over to where they had last seen Mia: a field of tall grass, weeds and flowers dotted by pines. Amelia and I trudged through the flowering weeds and the many, many bees that were pollinating them. Luckily for us, they were busy working, not stinging. Amelia walked purposefully towards the woods again, this time from the western side and into the thick of the trees, compelling me to crawl through on my hands and knees at times and crash blindly through dry, thorny branches to keep up with her. After a bit, she stopped and seemed confused. I was exhausted and sat down to give her some water. Just then Tim called my celphone and asked how things were going. He and Rufus were about a quarter of a mile away from our starting point. We agreed to go get more water soon, since we were both running low, and hung up. I was in no hurry to crawl back out through the thicket, so I sat a bit longer with Amelia. Suddenly, she got very still and craned her neck forward, one paw lifted in uncertainty. I followed her gaze to see a small black face peering out from the scraggly trees.

"Hey, Mia!" I called gently but cheerfully. "It's Emmy! Come on, girl!" Mia crept forward as did Amelia, and they gave each other a sniff and a lick and then Mia just leapt up on us both happily. I opened up the container of Bil-Jac treats for Mia to eat while I tried to hook her leash onto her collar. Amelia jammed her face into the treats and gobbled most of them up. Mia didn't seem to mind. She was just so happy to be rescued.

Once Mia was securely fastened to me via a well-wrapped leash, I called Tim with the happy news, then the adoptive mom, and finally the rescue she was adopted through. Tim told me to just stay there and sing so he could find us, but after several minutes, I decided to just suck it up and deal with the scratches and scrapes.

As we reached the clearing again, I dropped Amelia's leash by accident and she trotted off merrily into the six-foot-high grass, out of sight. I called to her but that didn't seem to stop her, so I started howling as mournfully as I could. She came racing back to us at once.
Back through the bee fields and then we caught sight of Tim. When Mia saw them, she was so happy! Safe at last and hanging out with her old pack.
We took her back to her adoptive parents, and although she was all anxious again, she - and her new family - will be fine. It took her a while to get used to our household and she'll get used to theirs as well. They certainly seem up for the challenge (not at all daunted by Mia's earlier "Great Escape") and are relaxed and happy, which is exactly what she needs. In a few days, I'm pretty sure she'll understand just how lucky she got.

And again, we could NOT have found her without our dogs. Our plain old, everyday, nothing fancy, knuckleheaded hoodlums. They didn't have any special training. They just did what dogs have done for millenia: follow their noses and hope the humans with them will trust them enough to follow those noses as well.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Trying to Earn His Stars

A lot has been going on lately at "Chateau Wooferdog." Rufus and Amelia keep on growing; they're now 19 months old, and still have a long way to go. Especially Rufus, who has become increasingly wary of strangers over the past few months. It's something that I have worried about for quite some time, since Buster's distemper left Rufus quarantined for three of the most important months for socialization.

Yesterday, he barked at a boy who asked if he could pet him. I told him he wasn't feeling good that day, so we'd have to sit for a minute and see if he felt like it. While we talked, he pointed out the "ranger badge" stars on Rufus' collar and asked what they were there for.

I told him, "Well, Rufus has always wanted to take care of people, and keep bad guys away. So I figured he'd like a sheriff's star on his collar."

Once Rufus had calmed down a little (there was a soccer game going on as well), the little boy got a high-five from him and a "kiss" on the forehead by way of apology. After giving him a treat and petting him, the boy got up to go. "So," he asked, "When he grows up, do you think he'll catch bad guys?"

I shook my head. "Probably not. But I'd like it if he got to help people who needed it."

The boy smiled and waved before he left. "I think he'd be good at that."

Rufus has a long way to go, and a lot of manners to work on, but I'd love to see him grow into a friendly, outgoing and happy dog. More than anything else, I want that for him.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dinner time

Over the last few weeks, Rufus' interest in food has really waned to the point where we practically have to hand-feed him or hold his bowl for him. Although none of the other dogs are remotely food aggressive, he acts nervous, as if he doesn't feel he has the right to eat. It's so strange. We mix a variety of food in with his kibble: chicken, beef, sausage, yogurt, cheese, peanut butter, carrots, etc. We just can't figure out why he seems so reluctant to eat. He's not at all shy about begging for popsicle bites (I feed him little pieces straight from my mouth. Yum!) He doesn't get over-fed on treats during the day, though, so it's not that he's full already. The other three dogs bolt their dinners down and then wander around and lick out each others' empty bowls. They naturally stare at Rufus and we keep them away from his (usually still full) bowl. No one growls or tries to push him away. It is a mystery.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Crowded House

Mia, Rufus, Jasper and Amelia

Mia and Jasper are still here and both have some personality issues (extreme shyness/fear of new situations) that are going to make it very hard to rehome them. Mia is so terrified of leaving her territory she actually poops on herself if we try to take her anywhere. She will go for walks but if there are too many other people around, she tries to run away and hide. She'd be great for a reclusive person who doesn't want to have to walk a dog, though. Just give her a doggie door to the back yard and another dog to play with and she's fine.

Jasper is a big old love-a-lump and so patient with Rufus constantly jumping on him, humping him, pulling on his ears, etc. But he also has a major prey drive, so we've had to rehome one of our cats and he turns into a snarling beast when someone comes up to the back fence, even if we're there telling him "It's all right! Quiet!" He also anchors himself to the floor if we try to take him for a walk by himself. Like Mia, he only wants to go if the other dogs are going. He'd be another candidate for a lazy owner. He's not real energetic, although he does like a good run around the backyard with the other dogs.

Rufus especially seems anxious with all the other dogs around. He eats slowly and we frequently have to keep the other dogs away from his bowl so he can finish eating. He's also not used to having his toys and bones constantly taken. And having to share Mom and Dad and the bed, NOT COOL.

So we reaaaally hope we can rehome Jasper and Mia soon.

Oh! Before I forget: August Dog Rescue is dissolving, so Jasper and Mia will be available from the Collin County Humane Society (we're still fostering, but for CCHS now). Still, for the next couple of weeks, I think they'll be on the ADR Petfinder page. If you're interested in a homebody, low-maintenance dog, let us know and we'll put you in touch with whichever organization is handling it at the time.

Spread the word and help us all out! :D

Friday, February 19, 2010

Happy Rufus Day!!!

It was one year ago today we brought a small, fluffy little Wooferpuppy home to foster.  Haha.  Joke was on us!

Here are some recent photos of Rufus and his pals: