Humphrey’s Hugs

NB: it is very hard to write with a Humphrey on top of me. 

so challenging in fact that I hit publish before I wrote my thoughts. *sigh* 

So, one of the reasons Dobby is such a satisfying dog to showcase as a rehabilitated dog is because the transformation is so very visible. He went from nasty nekkid mole rat to handsome beefcake relatively quickly. 

But how do you visually show the changes in a dog who basically looks the same? Answer: you can’t. 

Humphrey, the largest of our idiots, is technically my husband’s dog because when he saw a picture of this dog he literally said, “I love him, his name is Humphrey and I shall love him forever.” and that is how Humphrey was named and adopted. 

Humphrey was quite literally a pet project of a woman who has now become incredibly valuable to the animal welfare of this island. She moved into a home and Humphrey lived, a classic case of neglect, tied to the fence at the edge of her property. Her & her husband befriended this dog, feeding him and giving him attention to the point of building him a shelter, and the husband walking him. It is my belief that these interactions were Humphrey’s first introduction to affection and he was (and is) a fan. I have some opinions about hugging dogs that can be simplified into “generally do not,” but Humphrey seems to actively seek them out. When I thought about it for a while, it made sense to me. His first FoodLady provided him with affection, food, and attention and probably hugged him. This poor dog, never having been well-socialized with other dogs and appeared to have been tied up and ignored by humans until his first FoodLady moved in next door, learned that hugs were how you show love. 

Anywhoodle, Humphrey was a mess and to be honest, still is and always will be. He was found running loose and taken to the animal shelter, and when no-one claimed him, his first FoodLady contacted me and asked if I would take him in. I showed my (now) husband his photo and the rest is history. 

Mr. Humphrey’s progress includes: 

  • was heartworm positive; now officially negative! woohooo!
  • has a lot of broken teeth (his first and only toy was the chain that attached him to the fence); still has broken teeth but is not in any pain and it is next on the vet list once I get the care credit card paid down
  • He is very healthy. 
  • He had no leash manners and was strong enough for that to make walking him very hard; he is still not perfect on a leash, but is better. He knows how to chase tennis balls and now plays joyously with the other dogs daily. Watching him run is just beautiful. 

He is a very sensitive dog and when I have been sick or sad, he hasn’t left my side. Had Humphrey been raised in a loving environment where he lived with his mother and littermates until 12 – 16 months with appropriate human socialization included and then adopted into a home where he learned how to interact with his human pack and given appropriate training? he could have been devastatingly amazing. He’s unique and he’s loved; but his lost potential will always make me a little sad. 

All these positive changes have been internal. When he arrived here he was a large, healthy-looking apricot-colored canine. He is still a large, healthy-looking apricot colored canine. 

He will always have his limitations. He cannot be around cats, he will hunt them.  He gets too caught up in pack excitement too quickly and ends up nipping humans in response leading to bruising on one occasion, but if he meets new humans by himself – they are all his newest bestest friends. 

He’s never going to be perfect, but who is? Not me. 

Love y’all,

FoodLady

    Two Options

    Okay, so….real talk. I lose shit. I mean, ALL THE TIME. I currently have a Be On The Lookout (BOLO) list in my planner with no less than 13 items on it yet to be found. While I just spent the last 49 minutes of my life searching for my (damn) phone I had a great idea – wouldn’t it be great if cell phones came with a charging base that had a “find handset”-type page button? And if that noise could override silenced notifications? Yep, hours of my life could be saved if something like that existed.  

    ….and that’s when I remembered – shit, you can train a dog to find your keys or your phone. Why haven’t I done this? I have five, count them, FIVE freeloading asshats who were quite literally scampering around the front yard in joyous play while I sweated and cussed and moved furniture. 

    There are hundreds of thousands of articles out there and I have no idea what method I will be using, but once I figure it out I will be sure to share.  

    Love all y’all,

    FoodLady. 

    Tussling Took a Turn

    Somedays this house is clean, calm, and happy; but to be perfectly honest lately with five (*blinks* when the hell did I end up with five again?!) freaking dogs we are doing well if everyone is happy. 

    Yesterday everyone wasn’t happy. To the best of my understanding , either Sam-Sam the (asshole) model decided that Humphrey aka Big Stinky (asshole) was looking at him funny or vice versa, but the happy tussle time took a turn. Which led to a *very* displeased FoodLady wielding a chair. Turns out holding a lawn chair over your head scares the bejeesus out of any non-invested dog and gets them out of way. Then by simply placing the chair over the SamSam I separated the two assholes nicely. 

    Safety Note: I was okay separating them because they weren’t actively trying to kill each other, just some pack stupidity. Sort of the difference between high school kids fighting in the hall vs someone fighting for their life.

    Of course there were some scrapes, but this morning I noticed poor Humphrey had a puncture; cleaned it and found a second one. That’s when I knew that I had to take him to the vet. dammit. Antibiotics and then back home. 

    The house didn’t get any cleaner or calmer while I was out. 

    *sigh*

    That Hurt Me in My Feels.

    Something unpleasant happened to me last night and it hurt my feelings. For newer readers of the FoodLady Chronicles, I occasionally joke about my neighbors across the road disliking me. I have accepted that this older couple does not want to be friends, but if I am honest I always assumed that if they actually got to know me, we would get along and enjoy a polite neighborly relationship. It turns out I may have assumed incorrectly because it appears that these folks not only dislike me, they may actively loathe me.

    Allow me to set the scene: SamSam and I arrived for our 7:30PM obedience class and there was a lovely young lady with a super excited young (7 months) gray puppydog who was just full of excited-crazies. Because the front door was locked and the pretty grayling was getting too stimulated by the presence of Mr. SamSam (who did incredibly well, btw) we walked around to the back door and went into training room to sit in the corner while the puppy class that was ahead of the adult class finished up their Q&As. So while we waited I looked up and saw my neighbor through the glass door. I raised my hand to wave and she turned around and left – I thought she didn’t see me. Just before our class started I went out into the store portion and asked, “Did Ms. Neighbor leave?” and was answered, “Yes.”
    Because I am a complete glutton for punishment I couldn’t help but ask, “was it because of me?” and was answered, “Yes.”

    Well, shit.

    My calm and rational side freaking tried people, it really did. It kicked out all of these super helpful coping statements:

    “You cannot control anyone else’s behavior; you can only control how you react to their behavior.”

    and

    “It’s not worth getting angry about; my self-worth is not dependent on what someone else thinks of me”

    and

    “People aren’t against me – they are for themselves; I will not take this personally.”

    Unfortunately, once my brain thought the, “…I will not take this personally” part, my calm and rational side was beaten into submission by my emotional side who rather correctly pointed out that it doesn’t actually get more personal than driving 30 minutes across the island in the rain, finding parking in downtown Christiansted, going into the facility, and then, even before meeting the instructor or attempting the class at all, you leave to drive 30 minutes home in the rain all because of the sight of another student in that class; me.

    I put the whole situation out of my head because Mr. SamSam deserved my focus and attention and he was wonderful. He really has come so far from the Tasmanian Devil of gleeful destruction that he used to be. Unfortunately, while on my way home I couldn’t help but think about the Mr. & Mrs. Neighbor and got myself stuck in a thought loop that went something along the lines of: “I must be a monster – what sort of horrible hobgoblin must I be that the mere sight of me causes someone to quit a class before it even starts.” and then I cried.

    Now, in the light of day I am much more rational. I assume the over-excited grayling puppy probably intimidated Mr. & Mrs. Neighbor quite a bit and the size discrepancy between their wee dangerflüff and the other three dogs (each approximately 50lbs) didn’t inspire confidence. Unexpectedly seeing me, their hobgoblin of a neighbor, was just one stressor too many and they gave up. This makes me sad because I really think that if they had put a little trust into the instructor and ignored my existence they could have learned a lot and become happier and more confident dog owners and their wee dangerflüff would have had a better life.

    For me, I will continue to try to be a good FoodLady and not let other people’s opinions affect me too much. Dogs’ opinions of me, however, will continue to be of utmost importance.

    Love
    FoodLady

    Breaking Story!

    Okay, that’s a lie. it’s not a breaking story, it’s not even news to people who have actually taken a few minutes to think about things. But, to some people, what I’m about to say is downright scandalous! Ready? 

    There are no bad training methods or tools. 

    Say what now? 

    Yeah, you will go onto the Internet and your will read scathing reviews Of Everything. 

    • Choke Chains – how could you be so cruel?!
    • Electronic collars – you are abusing your dog!?
    • Give treats?! your dog will never listen to you without treats. 
    • Don’t give treats?! your losing out on bonding opportunities and making happy connections with your dogs/puppies!?
    • Clicker training!?! what, so you don’t have a Clicker then they won’t do anything?! 
    • Extend-o-leashes – you have no control, you are a horrible person!
    • No-pull harnesses – your forcing them to strain. 
    • Gentle-leader-type head collar – you are going to sprain your dogs neck and no dog ever likes them, at best they tolerate them. 
    • Pulling harnesses – not enough control, someone will get hurt!

    ugh. everybody just calm down. say it with me now, 

    “There are no bad training methods or tools!”

    There are pluses and minuses to ALL types of training and tools. For the love of all that is good in this world, please remember that tools in the wrong hands are, at best useless and at worst, dangerous. 

    Random non-dog example: I recently had a co-worker express concern about providing promotional screwdrivers because they didn’t “have a cover”. She claimed she thought they were a weapon and she could too easily stab someone. I really feel this said a lot more about my co-worker than the small screwdriver, but I digress – in her hands that screwdriver was a tool of pain and strife whereas to the rest of us, it was a handy little screwdriver. 

    So, here are my thoughts!

    • Choke Chains – one of the handiest collars for a dog that loves to get dirty, go swimming, and needs a lot of baths – it washes right along with the dog. Make sure it fits well, make sure it isn’t ever used to “choke” the dog, and make sure you are using it correctly. Keep working with your dog. 
    • Electronic collars – for some dogs and owners an e-collar solves everything. Usually when the human and the dog have trouble understanding each other or for field hunting work. Most of the time the electrical stimulation is very low or set to vibration. That said, you can really fuck this up if you do it wrong. Basically, learn as much as you can about the collar, practice on yourself, and if it works for you and your dog, great! if not, great! it’s a tool. Keep working with your dog. 
    • Give treats?! some dogs *need* to build a happy joy love bond and they are driven by their bellies. If your worried, slowly wean them down while increasing demands. the best training when it’s fun for you and your dogs. Keep working with your dog. 
    • Don’t give treats?! some dogs live to please their humans and while a piece of liver is keen, they would rather feel the joy from you as a reward. It’s okay to not give treats during training. it’s okay to give treats during training. the most important part?! that you are *doing* things with your dogs! Keep working with your dog. 
    • Clicker training!?! I have a rather personal grudge against anti-clicker training people–I spent YEARS not understanding that clicker training is FUN! I was told you can do clicker training or not, but you can’t do it only once in a while. Lies. that is a flat out lie. Clicker training is super fun and helps dogs grasp exactly what you are looking for, but you don’t ALWAYS have to have a clicker. it’s just another fun tool to keep things interesting. Keep working with your dog. 
    • Extend-o-leashes – Holy crap, if there is one thing that the poor people who work at vet clinics and pet stores hate, it’s extending leashes. I can’t blame them, they see them being used in the worst ways. Sure, let your dog be in total control in a large pet store! what could go wrong? Such was the hatred for extend-o-leashes that I bought one super stealthily online and told no-one. I wanted it so that I could let my dog go outside in mid winter in the Midwest while I stayed inside. Which was perfectly FINE. If you love your super long leash, awesome! use it safely. If you need to be in tight control of the dog, use a different leash or lock it short. If you need the dog to be able to go 30 feet but still be connected to you? you are using the correct tool. Keep working with your dog. 
    • No-pull harnesses – read about them, use it wisely. Ensure dog is wearing the correct size and safe. Keep working with your dog. 
    • Gentle-leader-type head collar – if you have a dog that you are finding hard to walk on a leash, slowly introduce the head-collar, and give it a try. It is so much better to have a dog be able to go for a walk then to have them stuck at home and never leave because you can’t control him. Keep working with your dog. 
    • Pulling harnesses – If you can use it safely and it works for you, rock on! To each their own, and keep working with your dog! 

    So, I don’t know if my ultimate message has made it through, but it boils down to this: whether you have a 200lb behemoth or a 2lb danger-floof, the more you interact and do things with your dog, the happier you both will be, so remember to keep working with your dog!

    Also, no-one out there knows everything, so take that into consideration as you are finding your way. While it is always easy to think of someone else’s way/method/tool as being the wrong way/method/tool, before you make any final judgements about anything, spend some time and think about it and see if maybe you should try it. 

    And always, keep working with your dog!

    Love, 

    FoodLady 

    Dear Ziesa, *so close*

    Dear Ziesa, this morning you were almost (so. damn. close.) interested in going to work with me. Alas, you were completely nekkid (no collar, no harness) so I left you outside while I zipped inside to grab leash & collar. In the minute it took me to return, you had changed your mind and grunt-stomped your stocky butt back into the house.
    While you may be on the slower end of becoming a service dog, you are awfully damn cute (and grunty.  and stompy).
    *praying for patience*
    -FoodLady

    Back Dat Azz Up!

    Today was a difficult day, but don’t worry ’cause even though there’s a bit of sad and difficult, there’s also some  funny. As you all know, losing Herbert (diabetic alert service dog) was one of the most devastatingly heart-breaking events of my life. I grieved, I was doing okay, one step at a time and all that crap.
    Well, now it’s my busy time of year at work and I never really considered how damn memorable he was to everyone – this week alone I have been asked by over 50 well-meaning people many variations of, “where’s Herbert?” And every single time it feels like my heart is being stomped into gravel by a large boot. This morning on my first flight to St. Thomas without him, the memories of so many island-hopping flights with him became pretty overwhelming and tears just sort of rolled down my cheeks. After landing,  work was busy and after a long day where I was only asked about him 5 times, it was time for the flight home. It wasn’t as bad, but this time my friend caught me sniffling and gave me a hug (she loved him too!) and then asked me what music I was listening to, very logically assuming I was listening to a sad song about loss, etc. That question caused me to crack up laughing and I was thrilled to be able to tell her I was listening to a deeply emotional rendition of, “Back Dat Azz Up”. This will never not be funny.
    So when the very nice lady who holds the arrival door open at the airport asked me where my Herbert was (thankfully my last boot stomp of the day), I filled her in on the tragedy. She eventually asked if I was going to have another service dog and I explained about Zisa and she is excited to eventually meet her.
    Zisa-girl, you have some huge pawprints to fill.
    Let’s get to work. ❤

    Hugging Dogs

    All primates have an intense need for ventral-ventral contact (hug). It is how we reassure and show love, empathy, and support. Primates are hugging machines! It feels good and it is good–for us.
    The closest approximation to the biomechanics of a hug that canines do to each other is (and I hate using this word as it is painfully overused, but in this case is accurate) a dominance display.
    But your dog LOVES hugs? I’m 1000% sure that your dog has absolutely come to understand that their crazy primate means all of the good and happy love things when they press their chest against them and squeeze and as such, completely accepts it from you. Heck, there are some dogs out there like our Mr. Humphrey who actively puts his head onto anyone’s shoulder and pushes his chest against whoever will let him in a rough approximation of a hug. He does that because he has figured out that people like this weird hugging thing and he *really* likes people.

    image
    Humphrey Being Humphrey

    Some dogs will put up with it; but here’s why we don’t allow children to hug dogs, not even their own: 
    Teaching tiny humans that something is okay sometimes and not okay other times? That is a recipe for failure. You do not want any child to feel that hugging a dog is okay, because what if the next dog they try to hug hates it? Kids are small and what might have been a painful bruise on an adult could end up being facial disfiguring bite that requires surgery on a child. It’s not necessarily that your child should never ever ever ever ever hug your dog – your dog has been taught to accept such things and your child loves that dog and how do primates (including humans) show love? Hugging. But why would you want your children to think that hugging dogs is the proper way to behave around them? Please actively teach children not to hug dogs.
    Has anyone else ever had a bad day? I have, and then someone you love does something that normally doesn’t irritate you too badly, but because your day has been horrible, you just lose it on that loved one who put the empty container back in the fridge AGAIN (or whatever it is you normally tolerate just fine)?
    Yeah, dogs have bad days too. And at the end of the bad day you do not want it to be a child to be hugging a dog who has just had enough.
    Love your children. Love your dogs. Please teach your children the correct way to interact with all dogs!
    Love,
    FoodLady

    Oddest Service Dog Conversation I’ve Ever Had…

    Yesterday I had the strangest conversation about service dogs that I’ve ever experienced. There are currently four dogs in my canine pack, but only one that I’m actively working towards training as a public access service dog – Zisa.

    image

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    That’s her earlier this morning, resplendent in her “puppy ugly” age of 5 months. Anyway, this person and I were discussing Zisa and the rather unfortunate fact that she may end up, like many St. Croix dogs, short-legged. She is not anywhere near corgi level of short-leg-ed-ness, but she may be just a wee bit odd looking as an adult–we shall see.
    This person asked me,

    “well, will she still pass as a service dog then? I think you should use Humphrey, he looks more like a service dog…”

    The sad part is, my brain didn’t fully process this question until after she had left, and then I was just flummoxed. First of all, here is a Humphrey:

    image

    And here is a Humphrey next to a 3 month-old Zisa:

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    Don’t get me wrong, he is a handsome boy! He is incredibly loving and strong and had the universe been kinder, he would have been mine after spending 12 weeks with his mother and siblings growing and learning some REALLY important things (bite inhibition, appropriate play, belonging to a pack, and a whole bunch more) and then he would have received training, healthcare, good food, and a very important job. Unfortunately, the universe had it planned that he be taken too early as a puppy (I know this because the loving doofus doesn’t understand the difference between a nibble and a crunch) and then, when he grew, “too large”; spend his life chained to a fence for their “security” (wtf?!). Being a dog, he was bored and stressed and to help with that he did the only thing he could – he chewed his chain and seriously damaged his teeth. Four years later the universe realized it was being an asshole, and moved a lovely older couple in next door to Humphrey’s fence. That couple couldn’t believe the deplorable conditions this dog was kept in and went about things the best way they knew how. Even though this was not their dog, they fed him, watered him, built him a doghouse, and even walked him daily….but Humphrey, being a big dog with absolutely ZERO training, was too much for them and he was getting very good at getting off his chain and heading directly to the road to chase cars. The older couple knew it was only a matter of time until he got killed, contacted me, and eventually Humphrey got to move to FoodLady’s house (aka dog shangri-la). So now he is being treated for his horrible heartworm infection, he will be having dental surgery soon, and he has learned the joys of pack, play, and toys. He’s not too fond of baths, but he puts up with it and would really prefer to be with his people 24-7. We are working on basic obedience, but it is incredibly challenging. Dogs are incredibly smart….at being dogs. But they learn by building on what they have learned before–the younger you begin, the easier it is. Humphrey learning that the washing machine was not, in fact, trying to kill him was a HUGE step. Humphrey learning to chase a tennis ball?! Holy Crap! That was a great milestone day! I’m incredibly proud of him and his progress. However, I would never want to attempt to train him as a public access service dog! Could it be done? Yes. With great effort, stress, training, and cost….it could be done. I would never do that to him. Why? Because it wouldn’t be fair to put him through the stress of it; his health would be adversely affected and with heartworms–that stress could kill him. When Zisa learns to alert me to a low and high blood sugar – she then has to be able to do it while walking in traffic, on an airplane, and while I’m attending or even teaching a class. At the same time she has to remain impeccably behaved, confident, clean, and unwavering regardless of surroundings. That’s a hell of a lot of work!
    So, what does a service dog look like? To me, it looks like years (literally years) of training. It isn’t something chosen to be done lightly or halfway and it sure as hell isn’t about what the dog “looks like”. If Zisa ends up looking like an English Mastiff set upon 4-inch legs (dear universe, please no.) but alerts like a rock star regardless of surroundings while remaining healthy and happy – then she’s a working public access service dog. If she ends up looking like the most stunningly beautiful dog ever put upon this earth but has absolutely no interest in alerting – well then, she’s a much-loved very pretty dog. 
    Okie Dokie, rant over. *hugs*