There were several people asking why we can’t keep Stevie. If it was purely monetary, they could help – and we were terribly humbled by the offers from people to do just so. Of course, us both being unemployed makes finances … Continue reading
First, I want to say thank you. Thank you to everyone who spread the word about Stevie needing a new foster home on Facebook, Twitter and good ol’ fashioned word of mouth. I wish I had the time to thank … Continue reading
I’m sorry for the lack of Stevie Wonder news and photos. I would have loved to have been on my game but some things out of our control kept us very busy for the last two weeks that culminated in … Continue reading
From my previous post, I mentioned that Hugo is a big help with training Stevie. If I’m honest with myself, Hugo, our five year old Black and Tan Coonhound, isn’t always the model citizen. He tends to bark when he … Continue reading
Colin here. Hound and a Half is truly Jess’ brainchild, but I suppose I am a part of the equation. With that in mind, Jess invited me to do a guest post tonight since she’s under the weather. I thought … Continue reading
Training little miss Stevie has been a real challenge. I don’t know if I’ve ever met a dog who was so unmotivated by food. Things that have our dogs drooling (their own kibble, dried chicken strips, and freeze-dried liver bits to name a few), have no effect on her, especially out of the house. At the same time, she loves chewing on her Kong and slow-release kibble toys to no end. But as soon as we are outside, she could care less. Talk about distracted.
The breakthrough came after we had poured through past blogs from her former foster momma. Although I can’t find it again to link to, cheese had been a go-to for Stevie-girl when she would refuse to eat in the beginning. Colin has been primary trainer for her since she’s bonded to me so quickly and he was feeling left out of the Stevie lovin’. Thanks to the power that is cheese, he’s been doing amazing things with her.
One of the best commands we use for our dogs on walks is “Look”. This is great if we want to distract them from squirrels, boisterous dogs on walks or anything else that will rile them up when we want calm, happy dogs. With “look”, the expectation is for the dog to sit and make eye contact with you. Ideally, they should keep eye contact until you release them. In the beginning, that’s not going to happen but it’s what you should gradually work up to.
Thanks to the miracle that is cheese, we’ve been able to start teaching Stevie-girl this “look” thing. In a week’s time, she’s really started to pick it up, being the smart lady that she is.
To begin, Colin started to work with her on this command inside the house, which is important because it is an isolated environment with few distractions to cause Stevie to fail. Colin would have her sit, praise her, and give her cheese so she knew that cheese is the high reward. Yum. As she’d look all around while sitting, he would say, “Stevie, look“. Once. The key is to not say it over and over again because the dog will ignore you, therefore letting her be in control and not you. In the meantime, he would do something to get her to make eye contact, make attention getting noises or whatever it took to get that split second where her eyes would meet his. As soon as it happened, however brief – cheese jackpot! With the reward and, “Look. Good girl, Stevie, look,” Colin would reinforce that “look” was the magic word and associate the correct behavior with the reward.
This training would last only a few minutes at first so as not to make her tired and stop listening. Over time, Colin would slowly build up the amount of time to spend with her on it, getting her to make eye contact more quickly and hold the contact longer while reducing the amount of reward. Of course, every now and then he would give her extra cheese so that she knew if she did what he wanted, maybe there would be that much again next time.
Having a solid “look” in the house, Colin took it to the back yard and then to streets. Stevie-girl is now on her way to be a pro “look”-er in other ways than just her beautiful charm. And, it helps to have foster siblings who can show her what to do.
I feel like every time there is a vet visit, it lasts for multiple days. Of course, this may be because we have four (now five) critters in our household and when it rains, it pours.
The good thing is, I love our vet. I used to do volunteer work with them on Saturdays when I had thought of returning to school to be a veterinarian. While I ultimately decided that that route was not for me, I sure did learn a ton about cats and dogs – and that I can tolerate seeing a lot of blood and gross things with animals that I can’t deal with in humans.
But, I digress. I’m pausing today on a Stevie update to talk about Mako, our male cat. I’ll get back to our regularly scheduled programming on Friday.
Our aptly named cat is the stable chaos in our household. Colin fell in love with him the moment Mako swiped his nose at the MDSPCA as a kitten. He’s a pain in the butt and we affectionately call him, “Our little *******”. He can be such a jerk. We have to put a stack of logs on top of the dog food containers because he knows how to open them. And he’s learned how to open the bread box. He’ll steal food from the counter if your back is turned and clean the dishes in the sink for you. But then he’ll be incredibly sweet and sit behind you on the couch to groom your head until it hurts. After pushing him away he’ll curl up behind you while purring and wrap his tail protectively about your neck. Or maybe it’s a sign he’ll strangle you if you’re not careful. It’s inconclusive. But we love him.
The last two days have been hectic and in a state of worry. Since Sunday night our voracious fur ball has refused to eat, which for him is a warning siren. Typically we have to lock him in the mud room or he’ll go after Kyrie’s food after he scarfs his down. He’ll even walk into the dogs’ crates to eat from their bowls while they’re eating, he’s that food driven.
So when he refused to eat anything and we discovered that he wasn’t using the litter box for the kitty toilet that it is, we knew what was happening. Again.
Last summer, about three weeks before our wedding, the same thing happened but we didn’t realize what was going on at the time. After days of not eating, constantly hiding, sullen mood swings and vomiting, we knew that our little shark was in real trouble. X-rays and an overnight stay turned into an emergency surgery. What they discovered was the forefinger of a winter mitten stuck between his large and small intestine. Because they knew I’d want to see it, the vet kept it for me. Good lord, it was foul. Which is why I love to share it.
We had told him last time that he’d better not do it again or he’d have to get a day job. He would only got one freebie surgery, mom and dad couldn’t afford to do it again. Well, we didn’t force him to acquire a job and like the child that he is, he didn’t listen. So when it came to making the decision that would save his life, there was really little we could do than give the go ahead. That stinker needs a night job as well now.
The call from the vet told us that, sure thing, they found what looked to be some sort of fabric. I’ll be picking him up tomorrow or the day after once he recoveries from the surgery. I hope they kept whatever was in him so I can try to figure out what he got into this time.
This weekend was a long one with a lot of driving. I once used to dread these ten hour plus trips and the multiple pit stops for the dogs. As our dogs have grown up they’ve become much easier to deal with over the course of lengthy trips. And by easier I mean they sleep the entire time. But it wasn’t always the case.
Hugo was always the car problem child. Once upon a time the hard part was the struggle to simply get him into the car. He had the incredible ability to know the difference between walking past the car versus when he was about to go into it. And if the car was running before he was in it? Forget it. He would plant and give us that look of, “Please. No. I’ll do anything you say. Just please don’t make me go in there.” No amount of coaxing and special treats would get him to set paw in the car. So we would have to stand him up so his front paws were on the seat and then lift his butt up into the car, scooting him in as he tried his best to resist. About twenty minutes later, after a pool’s worth of drool, his last meal would be on the seat. Meanwhile, Mattingly could care less and would stand there waiting for us to help him up into the car because he used his short stature to his lazy advantage.
Let’s just say I’m glad those days are over.
I’m not even certain how we got there. It was so gradual that it happened while we weren’t looking. All of a sudden we realized that Hugo could peacefully fall asleep next to Mattie and that was the end of it. Mind you, he still hates getting into the car, especially after we let them out after hour six of a long trip. But he will, however grudgingly. Mattie will even hop in on his own. I’ll give the real credit to accidental training, patience and persistence.
While we had a nice trip to say farewell to a loved one, we had to leave Stevie behind. There was just no way we could justify bringing her when she’s not the biggest fan of car rides. Were she to come along, we would have had to crate her the entire time since the dogs aren’t even allowed to have free range of our house yet. Considering the extra hours of traffic due to accidents and construction, it would have been a miserable twelve hour journey for all of us. And that would have been just one leg of the trip.
As much as we enjoyed the time at the beach and getting quality time with Hugo and Mattingly, we constantly found ourselves wishing our Stevie-girl was with us. We would constantly comment on how she would love to dive into the waves and finally go for that run with foster mom. It’s amazing how quickly she has wiggled her way into our hearts.
Now, we are glad to be home again and picking up right where we left off. Mattingly was pretty eager to help me write this post to tell you all about it.
The last day has been something else. And this time it’s not because of the fact that we have three dogs in the house.
I’ve been watching in wonder as my inbox has been bombarded by updates from both the blog and Facebook after Love and a Six Foot Leash posted the last update on Stevie Wonder. I don’t think there are words to express how I feel right now.Well, I’m sure there are but my brain is a little overwhelmed by the sheer amount of support I’ve received from this community.
So, thank you. For the kind words, the encouragement to keep going, the advice on what to do, and extension of helping hands as we move forward to help this lovely lady find a new home.
I only wish I could convey to Stevie Wonder what a loved girl she is.
Who got cat-called by a drive-by the other morning?
This girl: Stevie Wonder!
That’s right! After much incognito ninja work as the mysterious “Lady S”, the cat’s out of the bag! (Well, sort of. They’re still sequestered in the studio). The lady behind the metaphorical mask is, indeed, the fabulous Stevie Wonder!
Let’s take two hops back and fill in the blanks on how all this started. At the end of April, Colin saw this post on Facebook:
While we had previously decided not to pursue fostering just yet, we both knew as we glanced at each other that something about this was different. You see, Love and a Six Foot Leash posts amazing commentary on dog parenting/fostering and education on pit bulls while sharing beautiful photos of their beloved dogs, Chick and Snickerdoodle (aka the Dude), and all of their fosters. For all the amazing work that they do, the kicker for us is that they are also the former foster parents of our best friends’ new little love, Curious Georgia. However, Stevie’s former foster parents were stuck in a difficult place to help her out since they had recently moved to Texas.
But, we could.
And not only could we help Stevie-girl but we could help out the amazing couple who have brought so many families and dogs together for keeps while teaching us all what it takes to love a dog in need.
So, we took the leap and I wrote Stevie’s former foster mom. After several e-mails detailing the situation, we knew that if there ever was a right time to enter the world of fostering, this was it. We could take this lovely girl into our home, provide the love and stability she would need during another transition, and help to find a home that would truly love her forever and ever.
And the rest? Well, you know as much of that story as we do.
Want to learn more about Stevie’s beginnings as we know them? Jump over to Love and a Six Foot Leash to read all about Stevie-girl from the moment she was pulled from the shelter and into the loving arms of her first foster home. Use the “>> ” button at the bottom of the post to scroll through her entire journey!
A special thanks to Love and a Six Foot Leash for use of the amazing photos! Instagram’s great but your work is way better!