Our Story

Early separation form the mother

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“There is also some evidence that taking puppies out out of their litters before eight weeks of age predisposes them to become fearful of other dogs…” 

In Defence of Dogs. John Bradshaw

Oh how I wish people working in rescues will take more time learning about dogs. Chili and her siblings were separated from their mother at 6 weeks of age, and they were put in foster homes, even though their mother stayed in a dog hotel for another year.  And many litter of puppies were dealt with in the same way after and before Chili. Salma and her siblings were placed in a metal cage in a shelter cellar with cats, they didn’t have day light most of the day and didn’t meet any adult dogs. After we managed to get all of them out of there, there were many more puppies in the same situation. 

I know that working in shelters, helping rescue dogs is a very hard work, I know because I did it. However, with more knowledge it is easier to avoid simple mistakes and some of them can make a difference for the rest of dog’s life. I went through hell with Chili, and I will work on her for the rest of her life. I absolutely adore her but my heart breaks when I think what kind of dog she could have been if she had a chance to stay with her mom and siblings longer. I love rescue dogs but they have enough issues as it is and it is unnecessary to add more. 

 

On the picture Salma (right) and her sister Katya (left) minutes after I brought them home. They were 4 weeks old and Katya was very sick, but she made it 🙂

Salma and Katya, our first day

 

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On a journey to adulthood

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I see rising a dog as a journey, a long one. Salma was around 2 years old when she started to behave like a mature dog but it still took a year for her behaviour (especially towards other dogs to settle), and she did become a lot more confident in a past year. Now I feel that we know each other well, I know what I can expect from her. But the most importantly I trust her fully when it comes to interactions with other dogs. I know she is very skilled, and confident so she knows when to participate in interactions. She prefers to avoid conflict and uses running as a way of getting rid of some dogs, especially adolescent and puppies, at the same time she is not afraid of confrontation with dogs that are pushy or bully other dogs. She will displace the, and she will not let them displace her. Salma was really scared of dogs when she was young, she was separated from her mom at 4 weeks and didn’t have a good dog role model while growing up. I worked on her as well as I could, but put too much pressure for her to have contact with dogs, and for a while she was obsessed with meeting other dogs. From the beginning she was more interested in her environment than working with people, so when dogs came into play I was probably the least interesting thing on the menu. Back then I was really into clicker training, and training in general and I was missing the knowledge to see our relationship as something more complex than positive reinforcement. And don’t get me wrong I really loved her and I think she loved me, and we did have fun together I was just too focused on training my dog and not focused enough on helping her become a well adjusted adult. Slowly, my attitude changed and I become more interested in dog communication, and focused more on just being a unit with Salma. I remember the switch, how I felt that now we are a group going together for a walk and not just dog and a owner. And Salma is just a wonderful dog. Yes she has issue with chasing trains (which she doesn’t do but would love to) and rabbits and she is a bit emotional when she gets excited. But she is so cool and sweet. I was very lucky to find her. And she must have good genes as her sister is also very skilled in interactions with dogs.

Funny enough this post was supposed to be about Chili. But I guess most posts are, as she is still work in progress and I’m still trying to figure her out. 

She is a year and 10 months old now and far from being an adult. I see changes in her behaviour after we came back from Communication Classes, she is more confident and more interested in other dogs. I let her explore her personality and learn how to interact. Because she is a bit more outgoing those last two weeks, I interfere and protect her less. I see it this way if she is hiding behind me when a dog comes by that dog is not getting to her, because I need her to feel safe with me. On the other hand if she approaches a dog herself and that dog chases her away or scares her I don’t interfere. I want her to learn that her behaviour has consequences and to pay attention to the body language of other dogs. On the other hand I don’t think she is ready to deal with unstable dogs so I do make sure (as much as possible) that we avoid those. 

Salma during the communication classes

The first time I saw Salma

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This post was supposed to be Salma’s birthday post but I never got around to finishing it. So now it turned to be about my first meeting with Salma.
Salma turn four on Saturday…and I totally forgot it’s her birthday 😦 I know that she doesn’t understand the concept of being a birthday girl, but try to do something nice for her regardless. Last year she got a huge bone that she still has somewhere. On the other hand I don’t even know on what day she was really born. I took her home from a shelter when she was probably 4 weeks old, and we calculated what could be a date of her birth. I still remember the first time I saw her. We were standing outside of the shelter, on a hot summer day (I think we just finished workshop for new volunteers) when Olga came and told us that they found other puppies. Two days earlier when we were packing up to go home a girl (I don’t remember who it was) asked if we want to see a little piglet. It turned out a child brought tiny puppy to the shelter saying that he found her in the forest. Puppy was put in a crate in the cellar with cats. She didn’t even have a teddy bear to keep her feeling safer. She was continuously making pig like sounds. I can’t even imagine how difficult it was for her to be separate from her mother and left alone at 4 weeks of age. Needless to say we walked out with the puppy. First we fought I will keep her at my place the puppy turned out to be too much for Petra (my other dog). Little. One needed physical contact with another dog and Petra was to nervous for that (she had aggression problems towards other dogs and people but not puppies). Ania took the puppy to her place because we’re she had two dogs of her own. To cut this part of the story short the puppy was Salma’s sister Pepa. Ania tried to find a home for her (as she had two dogs already) but that obviously didn’t work out. She falls in love very easily :). Pepa is a very sweet and happy dog right now, but Ania put a lot of work to help her become this way.
So coming back to that hot summer afternoon… Olga told is that after some investigation they figured out where the puppy came from and went there for inspection. They found 4 other puppies which were then taken away because they were not in a good shape. Unfortunately they didn’t manage to get their mom too. Puppies ended up in the same cellar but at least the we’re together. I fall in love with Salma then and there. She was the biggest and fattest of all the puppies and she had those big cow like eyes. I took her in my arms and that was it, I remember saying to Olga “As soon as she is big enough to be appeared from her siblings I’m going to be her foster family”. I didn’t have to wait that long. A day later Olga called and said that the smallest puppy from the litter is going to die if we don’t get her out of that cellar and provide her with proper medical care. I was there in 15 minutes and left 10 minutes later with the sick puppy (Katya) and my Salma. We took them straight to the vet where a fight for Katya’s life began. Vets didn’t know what is exactly wrong with her but she was extremely weak and had to have IV daily (that’s how I learn how to administer an IV to a dog) and eat baby food. There was a moment when we were talking about possibility that she may not make it. She also grow up to be a very healthy and happy dog. I think that’s where I will finish my story for now. It’s nice to think back to that time when my whole life was focused on those two tiny puppies.
On the first pictures Katya sleeping on a pillow. Salma running at me. And the first minutes at my house, girls are getting water.fr

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Long time no see

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Somehow I Couldn’t find time or energy to write in a couple of days. I lot has been gong on, not only with the dogs, and my mind was wondering far away from the blog. Chili is 8 months old (tomorrow to be precise) and if she will continue to be such a pain in the butt she may not leave to see her adulthood. Seriously, I don’t know how parents of teenagers do it. At least she can talk back to me. Though she is very expressive with the looks she gives me when I don’t want to play with her. She also became more annoying towards other dogs. She is still afraid of a lot of them but on the other hand she started to bark at the rest when they don’t want to interact with her. Today two dogs gave her a strong lesson on why she should be more polite. Both older females, and both very good with communication. When Chili didn’t respond to their calming signals, and warning signals they chased her away but only as long as it was necessary. Chili was a slow learner but she finally realized that she should respect their personal space.

Salma on the other hand is doing ok but she had some bad experience with dogs recently. First with a very aggressive Yorkshire terrier, and then with a young Belgian shepherd. In both situations the owners were total d***heads, and could be responsible for a serious tragedy. Poor Salma did very good but she was stressed with those situations.

First post

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As I write this I do not know how this will end. It can be a success story with a happy ending but just as well (and probably this is more likely) it will be a nightmare. At the moment the second scenario seems a lot more probable. Messing up two dogs, which each have their own issues and have to live on small space it’s easy enough. I can just sit back right now and let the chaos unveil. On the other hand making sure that they live peacefully and are both happy will take a lot of work and skill. And honestly I don’t know if I have what it takes. Having knowledge is one thing, but being able to act correctly in unexpected situations it’s a completely different story. Since we have Chili (which at the moment is 2 months) we went to hell and back. I thought that we are ready for a second dog; Salma is almost 4 and she is such a sweetheart (chasing rabbits and trains, hating cats and pulling on a leash), I’m looking for a job so I will have all the time in the world to take care of the puppy. On paper it might look good, but in practice we have a four year old dog that has problem with emotional control (because she was separate from her mom too early) which cannot go to a park next to our house because she will get so crazy about rabbits that she won’t even know we are there. I do have time, and loads of it but the fact that I’m looking for a job and market is soo terrible means that I may have to take a job that will require me to be away from the house for 10 hours a day. At the same time when Chili arrived my boyfriend started his new dream job which may mean he will be gone for whole weeks. And just to spice it up, sweet puppy that we adopted turns out to be a dog from hell. We have all the ingredients for a disaster. All of the above add up to one conclusion; we should have not adopted Chili. It is not a right time, our dog is not capable and we were not ready for what happened in the first weeks. And the worse thing about taking a dog when you are not ready is the fact that then you are not able to create proper environment for your new friend.You might be tired, angry frustrated and so forth but the dog didn’t choose to be with you. He is not the one who made a wrong decision, his whole world changed because of your choice. Most likely he is scared and stressed, trying to understand his new situation and it that moment you need to step up and put his well being above yours. I know all of this, and yet when Chili arrived I panicked and made a lot of mistakes. I wasn’t there for her as much as I should.

I’m trying to find the best way possible to rise little Chili to be a well balanced dog, and at the same time I want to find a way to help Salma with her problem with emotions, and rabbit/train/cat issues. I hope that writing about this journey will make it easier to remember all the good and bad moments that we have together (and hopefully with time there will be more good moments)