Saturday, September 1, 2012

Ripp’s Story, part 9—A Clean Bill of Health

Ripp’s feeling good and starting to look like his old self.

OK GSRA peeps and other Ripp fans: get up on your feet and do your happy dance!! At Thursday's recheck visit to the NCSU vet school, Dr. R, the surgeon who led the team on Ripp’s ear surgery, was VERY pleased with how he’s healing. In fact, she said she didn’t need to see him anymore!

 Ripp 1 month postsurgery
Not that she didn’t WANT to see him, of course, but that she didn’t NEED to. We could not have hoped for better news! She recommended continuing him on antibiotics for another week as insurance that there is not a scrap of infection left deep inside, and that seems like a great idea to us. If anyone is counting, he is now on his FOURTH antibiotic since the surgery, because one bug or another proved resistant to the earlier drugs. As Andrea P said when she heard about the latest, “Ripp’s so special, even his bacteria are unique”! Folks who have followed this blog may remember that he had his surgery on August 1st, so it’s seems somehow fitting that this happy news comes on August 30th, the very end of the month. (Yes, I know that August has 31 days; close enough, I say!) Although the poor guy has been through a LOT this month, for almost all of it he’s been in significantly less pain than before surgery. And now, of course, that pain is gone for good (reprise the happy dance!).

Ripp does still need to go through heartworm treatment, unfortunately. We couldn’t even consider doing that any sooner, but he has now been cleared for it by Dr. R. We’re going to wait a few weeks though, as Ripp has a very important social engagement in early October that he wants to be feeling his best for. That’s right, Ripp plans to be eating barbecue and socializing with all his favorite peeps at the GSRA Reunion Picnic on October 7th! He might not QUITE have a full head of hair by then, but he expects to still be looking mighty fine. And feeling even better. ;-)

Now that Ripp is cleared with the vet school, he can play ball again.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ripp’s Story, part 8—The Two-week Recheck

Ripp’s hanging at the NCSU vet school. 
The beautiful new facility has this great statue out front.

Ripp went back to the vet school this week to get his stitches removed and evaluate how his healing from surgery is progressing.  For the most part things are looking very good, but he does have a couple small pockets of infection remaining.  This is not surprising, because he didn’t start on his super-dooper injected antibiotics until a week ago (see Blog 7 for that part of his story). But to make very sure to eliminate ALL the infection, it does mean that we’ll be extending the injected antibiotics for a third week (we both say phooey on that!) and adding an additional oral antibiotic to complement the injected one.  Having come so far, going this extra mile is definitely worth it to get Ripp completely healed.

Really?  You need to measure my hair?  Sheesh!

Meanwhile, Ripp’s starting to look a little more like his handsome self every day.   Two week’s worth of hair doesn’t look a whole lot different than one week’s worth, but if you measure it, why, it’s a quarter inch!  Ripp is not especially a fan of the measuring, though…
Ripp’s still got a few ouchy places in his ears but is otherwise feeling GREAT.  
Ripp’s certainly feeling well, that’s for sure!  We MAY be cheating just a wee bit on the staying quiet thing.  But he’s well enough healed that a little ball-playing won’t hurt anything.  And really, who could resist? ;-)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ripp’s Story, part 7—Recovering From Surgery

Lookin’ good Ripp!
Ripp is nine days post-surgery, off his pain meds except for Rimadyl, and feeling really good!  He’ll chase a ball if I throw it for him, but he needs to stay quiet for a full two weeks after surgery so we can’t do too much of that.  The white ointment in his ears is gradually fading away and his hair is starting to grow back (OK, you DO have to look closely to see this, but it’s progress!), so he doesn’t look quite so funny anymore.  Or maybe I’ve just gotten used to it. ;-)

Lots of hair there!
This week we received results from the antibiotic sensitivity testing that the NCSU vet school microbiology lab was doing.  Right after Ripp’s surgery, the team sent tissue samples to this lab to test, so that we could be sure Ripp received an antibiotic that would be effective against whatever trace amount of infection might have remained in his body.  After all, we want this to get rid of his infection for good!  Knowing that it would take a few days to get those test results, the care team discharged him with a “placeholder” antibiotic for him to take in the meantime.  

Well, the test results go a LONG way toward explaining why his ear infection had been so hard to clear up all along.  They cultured separately for three of the most common types of bacteria found in ear infections, and it turned out that at least one of those bacteria was resistant to each of the common antibiotics they tested against!   So, although we could have knocked one or two of them out with whatever antibiotic that was tried, the other one would have kept growing.  Not to worry, though, veterinary science has other tricks up its sleeve.  Although the COMMON antibiotics wouldn’t work, a less common one would.  The shock for poor old Foster Mom, though, was that THIS antibiotic would need to be injected twice a day!  For two weeks!   Well OK, if that’s what’s needed, that is what we’ll do…

After picking up the drug and needed supplies from the vet school pharmacy, I stopped by North Paw Animal Hospital for a quick tutorial on exactly how to do this.  The wonderful staff there was happy to oblige, and gave me some great tips on managing this on my own.  YES, I’ve seen dogs get shots lots of times, but I’ve never paid attention to the details especially closely, nor did I ever think I’d be doing it myself!  Well, fostering for GSRA is always an adventure… so here goes.
A bit more complicated than pills:  two different sizes of syringe, needles, sterile saline, the powdered antibiotic, and a sharps container for the used needles.
That’s a big shot!  Ripp takes it like 
the brave German shepherd he is.
The antibiotic comes as a powder, so the first step is to reconstitute it in sterile saline.  Then, I draw out the correct dose into the syringe.  Ripp needs 16 mL each time, which is about the size of a tablespoon.  That doesn’t sound like much, but it sure looks like a lot when it’s in the syringe!  Then it gets injected just under the skin between his shoulder blades.  Ripp is SO good for this.  It surely can’t feel good, but he holds still and barely flinches when the needle goes in.  This makes it a LOT easier to make sure all the drug gets where it’s needed.  Of course, he gets lots of loving afterwards, and we congratulate each other for being so brave. ;-)  
When can we play ball again?  I’ve got two sizes 
and will chase whichever one you’ll throw!
Although it’s early days yet, I’ve been watching for any change in his personality now that the chronic pain he’s been living with for so long has been eliminated.  I can’t say I’ve seen any big changes, but he does seem more inclined to initiate an interaction or seek out affection than he did before.  This doesn’t really surprise me.   Sweet as he was before, that pain has to have been a barrier coloring his entire experience with the world for a very long time.  Now that it’s gone, I think we’ll see more of his full personality every day, as his recovery continues.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Ripp’s Story, part 6—Ripp Comes Home With a Really Bad Haircut

The team did a CT scan just 
before Ripp’s surgery.
I did warn you, right? About the haircut? Even so, even I was a bit taken aback. We’ll get to that in a moment. But, first things first. When I arrived at the vet school, the senior student and resident who have been involved in Ripp’s surgery and progress went through all the discharge instructions before bringing Ripp out. They also showed me a sample of his CT scan. This imaging technique (CT = computed tomography) takes a series of pictures in different planes, front to back, and then uses computer magic (yes, a highly technical term!) to reconstruct a 3D image of whatever it is the medical team needs to look at. In Ripp’s case, it was the inner structures of his ears. They did this scan just before he went into surgery, to give the team a good idea of what was going to be involved. In this sample image, which was taken from the perspective of looking straight at Ripp, all the bright white parts are bone or highly calcified cartilage. The bone at the top is his skull, and of course you’d expect to see that. All of the bright white in the middle should NOT be there, and removing it was the goal of his surgery. The arrow on the right points at his right ear canal (to him, this would be his left ear). Although the canal is somewhat open to begin with, it is lined with bony, calcified tissue. This same structure on the other side, his right ear canal, is pretty much closed up. The arrow toward the middle of the photo points to his left middle ear. This is a round structure, and you can see that it’s lined with more bright white tissue, which wouldn’t be there in a normal healthy ear. This extra tissue was also removed during surgery.

OK, yeah, channeling the Easter Bunny here. 
But he still has those big, beautiful ears. 
He looks happy, too. ;-)
There’s a close up of Ripp’s left ear. 
The arrow points to the stitches where they 
closed the ear up. All the diseased 
inside parts were removed.
Ripp’s aftercare will be surprisingly simple: give him lots of pain meds for the next few days, decreasing them based on his behavior; keep him on antibiotics for the next 3–4 weeks, to make sure every last bit of infection is gone; and remove the sutures in 14 days. OK, now let’s get the boy home! So, now the haircut. Believe me, I would NOT be showing these pictures if people didn’t already know how handsome Ripp is! He’s been shaved from just behind his eyes to the base of his neck, including his ears. At the moment, his is a face that only the extended GSRA family could love. ;-) Adding insult to injury, his ears are smeared with a white ointment that makes him look like a GSD dressed up as the Easter Bunny! Poor guy…. But honestly, given what his life has been recently, do you think he cares? I don’t! He is very sleepy from the pain meds but happy to be back in a familiar environment. And, the surgery pain is fading fast, leaving…… nothing! No more pain! When has he felt THAT? No time recently, that’s for sure. So, although Ripp looks a bit pitiful in the photos here, please do not feel sorry for him. Yes, he has some recovering to do, but the worst is truly behind him. And YOU made that happen, with your generous outpouring of support. You’ve truly changed this boy’s life, and we will never forget it.
I gotta say, patting a bald-headed dog is
 kind of weird. But I’m getting used to it. In addition to 
the Easter Bunny, he has a sort of Yoda look going on. ;-)

One of his pain meds makes him pretty sleepy, but he’s happy to be home. The two red bandages are where his IV catheters were attached; they were removed this morning. The tan bandage on his rear leg (far right in the photo) is his fentanyl patch. This helps with the post-surgery pain, but it can be removed tomorrow.  


Friday, August 3, 2012

Ripp’s Story, part 5—Discharge Day Approaches!

Ripp continues to recover very nicely from his ear surgery and will be discharged at 9:00 Saturday morning! He was interested in food beginning Thursday evening and has been eating well since then. Based on his behavior, the care team has been gradually decreasing his pain meds and this morning switched him over from IV to oral meds, plus a fentanyl patch. No doubt the poor guy has many shaved places now where the patch can be stuck. ;-) Although he’s doing well, the team wants to keep him in the hospital one more night to make sure these changes in his meds are really doing the job for him. Sleep tight big guy, tomorrow’s a big day!  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ripp’s Story, part 4—First day of Post-op

Ripp is so far having an excellent recovery from his surgery! He shows NO signs of temporary nerve damage to his face, which was a possible complication that we were warned about. He has not been interested in eating today, but this is not at all surprising, given the high levels of pain medication he’s still receiving. He is alert, though, and will take himself outside to potty (good boy, Ripp!), and the team is pleased overall with his progress. Tomorrow morning they will try changing him over from the IV pain meds he needs for the first 24 hours after surgery to oral meds. If he remains comfortable after making this switch, he can be discharged that evening. If the oral meds don’t seem to be strong enough they will move him back to IV pain control for a little longer. Please Ripp, this is no time to be stoic!! Much as we want you home, let them know if you need more drugs!

A word of warning: in the post-surgery photos we’ll post as soon as we have them, Ripp is going to be sporting a REALLY bad haircut. Yes, think Mohawk bad…. But hair grows back, and we know you’ll still be glad to see him. ;-)  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ripp’s Story, part 3—Surgery Day

Today was the big day! Thanks to the amazingly generous financial support of so many, Ripp did not have to wait any longer for his ear surgery. He is still in surgery as I write this (6 PM on Wednesday, August 1), but we wanted to share what information we have. His day started with being sedated for a CT scan, which gave the surgical team the best look yet at how extensive his ear damage was. This test showed that the canals of both ears were very bad (no surprise there, that was obvious from just looking), but only the middle ear (also called the bulla) on the right side was also obviously damaged. Things might look different once they could actually see first-hand, but it gave them what they needed for planning purposes, which was an indication of which side to start on. That way, if Ripp was to have a bad reaction part way through, they could stop after the first ear. Interestingly, learning that the right ear was the worst of the two agrees with what I had seen in some of his behavior. When he was feeling his worst, his balance was off, which led to staggering in circles to the right (see part 1 of his story). But both ears obviously need surgery.

Because of other surgeries scheduled for today, Ripp’s surgery didn’t begin until about 1 PM. We were originally told it would be a 3 hour procedure, but at 6 PM we heard that the team had just finished the first ear! Absolutely NOTHING is wrong, and they are now moving on to his second ear. The delay was caused by the extensive calcification, which made it more difficult than expected to remove the damaged tissue (think of trying to delicately slice through bone). The team discussed stopping for the day because Ripp had been under anesthesia so long, but all his vitals are extremely strong and steady, so they decided it was OK to proceed to the second ear. We think this is a GREAT idea, because it means he won’t have to go through all this again. It ALSO means that we don’t have as much news as we thought. I would love to be reporting that he’s out of surgery and fully alert, but we aren’t quite there yet. We know Ripp is in many people’s thoughts today, which thrills me to no end! Please keep the positive thoughts flowing his way; we’ll post more news as soon as we have it.     

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ripp’s Story, part 2:  The Surgery Consult

I find myself writing this update well before I expected to, as Ripp was able to get an appointment at the NCSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital within a few days of being referred.  We had a great experience with the caring staff there.

Ripp drifts off to sleep in the exam room.
After discussing his history with a third-year veterinary student to make sure they had all relevant information, we had to wait for a few minutes while the student conferred with the faculty veterinarian.  Ripp continued his “not at all worried” attitude and used this time to take a nap.

Next, we met the rest of the team, which included the faculty veterinarian and a veterinary resident, in addition to the student we had already met.  The faculty veterinarian conducted a hands-on exam, with the assistance of the student.  They didn’t need to spend much time on his ears, since it was really very clear that nothing short of surgery could fix the problem.  But the exam was still important.  They were especially interested to know whether Ripp had any facial or jaw pain, as this might indicate that the infection in his ears was affecting either or both of two facial nerves that lie close to the ear canal in dogs.  Luckily, the answer was “no.”  They also asked about any problems with balance.  Although Ripp doesn’t have problems with that now, I filled them in on the rough time he had over Memorial Day weekend.
The team gave him a thorough once-over,
looking for signs of nerve problems in his face.
Luckily, there were no signs of that. 

After the exam, they explained the type of surgery that they were recommending and the potential risks and complications associated with it.  The surgery is called total ear canal ablation, or TECA, for short.  This strikes me as a disarmingly cute acronym for such a serious procedure!  During a TECA, they remove the ear canal and lining of the middle ear, and seal up the opening with stitches.  The tissue that is removed is sent to the lab to identify the kind of bacteria and other beasties that are present so that Ripp can be given the right kind of antibiotics to kill any traces of infection that might remain inside after the surgery.   Ripp needs to have this done to both ears.  A possible complication of surgery is that the facial nerves I mentioned earlier will be damaged.  The surgeon knows where they are and will very carefully move them out of the way, but just moving them may cause a little short-term damage that would make his face droopy for a week or two after surgery.  Of course everyone hopes this doesn’t happen, but I appreciate knowing about the potential in advance so I won’t be surprised if it does happen.

The sandbags gently kept Ripp from
moving while the x-ray was taken.
The other risk they discussed is the general risk that exists whenever anyone (dog or human) is anesthetized for surgery.  Ripp is 7, which is middle-aged for a German shepherd, and he is heartworm-positive.  This increases the risk a bit, but we think the ear surgery will improve his quality of life so much that it’s important to do it as soon as possible.  The medical team was OK with this, but wanted to do some imaging studies to assess the extent of the heartworm damage, as well as to check out the rest of his organ systems.  Sounds good to us!

The ultrasound showed that
Ripp’s spleen and other
organs look healthy.
The first thing they did was to take radiographs (x-rays) of his heart and lungs.  When they do this, they barely sedate the dog and keep them still on the table by just placing a person’s hands on them.  To minimize x-ray exposure to the staff, they then substitute sandbags for a person’s hands and dash outside to take the image.  I’m told they usually have about 15 seconds before the dog notices the difference. ;-)  Ripp’s heart and lungs looked great, with no obvious signs of the heartworms.  He still HAS heartworms, of course, and we will get him treated once he recovers from the ear surgery.  But at least we know that the heartworms do not present a big risk during surgery.

The next thing they did was an ultrasound of his internal organs, to make sure he didn’t have any underlying conditions more serious than his ears (cancer, for example).  Luckily, he got a clean bill of health in this regard, so all systems are “go” for the surgery.

Not surprisingly for a specialized surgery like  TECA, this procedure is rather costly.  Our fundraising effort to cover the cost of it launched just a few hours ago as I type this, and the early support has been just phenomenal.
Later, Ripp had just one thing to say about the experience so far. 
“Um, HELLO?  My ears are not down THERE!
What vet school did you graduate from anyway?
Oh, you needed to do it for the ultrasound, you say?
Yes, I’m SO glad you like the looks of my spleen.
Sheesh!  I’m just glad it’s not winter…” 
In fact, we’re SO encouraged that we’ve gone ahead and scheduled the surgery! This will happen on Wednesday, August 1st.  Look for a brief update that evening after we know he’s safely out of surgery and a more complete report once he’s discharged from the hospital.  Until then, keep this sweetie in your thoughts and prayers, especially on August 1st.  And thank you so much for your support, we’re incredibly grateful.

Monday, July 23, 2012

GSRA is many things to many people, but all would probably agree that first and foremost, it’s about second chances for German shepherds in and around North Carolina.  The Voice of the Pack Leader blog was started to tell the remarkable story of the Fab Five, which we so enjoyed sharing with the greater GSRA family as we lived it.  Now that we’ve told their story, this blog will begin telling the stories of a few other GSRA dogs who, for whatever reason, especially capture people’s interest.  We’ll begin that new focus with Ripp’s story.

Ripp’s Story, Part 1:  Ripp comes to GSRA 

This was the first photo of Ripp
we received from the shelter.  There’s a softness in
his face that makes you immediately want to help him.
Plus I wanted to get after those toenails!
We first heard about Ripp in early May 2012, when a small shelter in eastern South Carolina contacted us about a sweet, handsome, middle-aged German shepherd who has been seized by the courts as a cruelty case and turned over into their care.  Well THAT got our attention!  Seeking more information, we learned that the cruelty took the form of extreme neglect, which caused Ripp to live for years with severe, chronically infected ears.  How many of you reading this blog have ever had an ear infection?  Do you remember how painful that can be?  Imagine living with it year after year… that was Ripp’s life, and it eventually led to deafness.  But of course, deafness was the least of his problems, because the pain didn’t go away just because his hearing did.  Through those dark times, he somehow held onto an extremely sweet and gentle disposition.  Once he came into their care, the shelter got Ripp’s ears some immediate attention, but then reached out to us because they felt that his ongoing rehab needs would be beyond both their means and the means of many of their local adopters.  They recognized how special this guy was, and wanted the very best for him.  

When Ripp was dizzy and feeling the worst,
his crate became his safe place.
He’d stay there, even with the doors open. 

We gave him pain meds to keep him
comfortable until we could get him to the vet.
It took a few weeks for GSRA to work out the on-site assessment and transport logistics of bringing him into the rescue, but he finally arrived at my house on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.   I had fostered deaf dogs before so was not concerned about this, but acclimating a new dog is always a bit of an adventure.  Has he ever been inside a house before?  Does he understand that the bathroom is outside (big dogs don’t have small accidents, after all!)?  Will he get along with my two male dogs?  Will he tolerate being crated?  Well, I needn’t have worried about any of that. Aside from being a bit disoriented in a new place and tired from the travel, he settled in very easily, and I looked forward to getting to know him.
Well, his ears started causing a problem right from the beginning.  He was shaking his head a bit from the time he arrived, but as the holiday weekend went on they quickly became worse, to the point where his balance was affected and he could only stagger around in a circle!  I felt so bad for him, being in a strange place, not able to hear, and so dizzy you couldn’t even walk normally.   An ear wash helped a bit, as did pain meds, but believe me, I was counting the hours until I could get him to the vet on Tuesday morning!

And so our journey to ear health began.  I had noticed over the weekend that the base of Ripp’s ears had no “give” to it, as normal shepherd ears do.  Instead, it was hard as a rock!  I learned at the vet’s that this was due to calcification, a result of long-term inflammation, and it continued far into the ear canal.  It’s common in dogs with chronic ear infections, but they had NEVER seen a case this bad.   His ears were also terribly inflamed, and loaded with bacteria.  But, we could do something about both of those things, and he would soon be starting to feel better.  We started him on a combination of oral antibiotics (pills to swallow) and topical medicine to put in his ears, plus continued his pain meds.  I also started flushing his ears every other day to clean them, a routine I would continue for the next six weeks.

Ripp wouldn’t focus on me in the early days.
See how he’s looking off to the left?
He was too sick to care who I was.
Now, I am not someone who thinks a pill can fix anything that ails you, but drugs do have their place, and in this case they worked wonders.  Ripp was clearly feeling better just 12 hours after his first dose of antibiotics, and by 24 hours I think I was beginning to see the real him for the first time—despite the fact that he’d been with me for five days by this point.  Initially, he didn’t focus on me at all, which presented a real quandary as far as training him.  I mean, if he can’t hear, all I’m left with is visual and physical communication.  His lack of focus had me thinking that he must have a fairly significant vision impairment, but I now know this isn’t the case; he can see just fine, except perhaps for quite close up—He needs reading glasses.  But he’s rarely called upon to read, so that’s not a problem.  ;-)  His lack of focus in the first few days must have been a symptom of just how bad he felt!  But of course, since I didn’t know him, I didn’t know what “normal” looked like.  Thank goodness we’re beyond that.

Ripp and his foster bothers.
That’s Ripp on the left, of course.
Chester’s on the right and Max is behind.
They’re good boys who just roll their eyes
 when Ripp is a little clumsy socially.
So, let me tell you about life with “normal” Ripp.  Once he was feeling better, getting him to focus on me was NO problem at all.  In fact, he keeps such close tabs of me that there’s pretty much no need for a “come” command; he’s already there!  But, if I need him to approach closer, I can do this with a few hand claps and a beckoning motion with my hands.  He’s also learned to sit on a hand signal and to wait for his food.  Although that doesn’t sound like much, it was pretty much all he needed to live easily in my home.  He walked nicely on the leash from early on, was nondestructive in the house, and gets on quite well with my dogs.  I must say, though, that a lot of the credit for that goes to my boys being so tolerant.  Although Ripp doesn’t have an aggressive bone in his body, his doggie manners are a tad on the clumsy side.  If another dog has something he wants (a ball, for example) it doesn’t occur to him that they might object if he tries to take it.  And if they do object, he has absolutely NO survival skills as far as defending himself.  So, it’s just as well my guys are not the “butt-kicking” sort.

 Ripp had to wear a belly band for a few 
days after his tummy tuck.  
How embarrassing!
I mentioned earlier that I would keep up the routine of every-other-day cleaning for 6 weeks.  Over that time the amount of nastiness I was removing certainly decreased, but Ripp’s ears were still inflamed and clearly painful.  The next step was to take him back to the vet, sedate him, and do a deep ear cleaning.  The vet would also be able to finally get a good look and assess whether we were really getting on top of the infection.  Since he was going to be sedated, we also decided to get him a little “tummy tuck” to remove the extra flap of skin that hung down from his belly—a purely cosmetic procedure that we would not have put him though if it was the only reason for him to have a surgery.

Ripp’s not worried.  
He knows he’s in good hands now.
The ear exam proved to be extremely informative, if not quite the sort of information we wanted to hear.  It turns out that the calcification mentioned earlier is so severe that Ripp’s ear canals are completely closed!  Although on some level this surprised me, on another it did not, because over the six weeks that I had been flushing his ears to clean them, I always felt like they filled up with flushing solution well before they should; well, now I knew why….  More importantly, the closed ear canals meant that we were never going to get on top of this with antibiotics and cleaning.  In fact, the worst part of the infection is almost certainly deep inside, where we can’t get at it at all.  Well, at least we know that now, and can move on to something else.  The “something else” in this case is a consult with the surgical team at the NCSU Vet School.  We will be doing that in the coming week and report about the experience in our next blog.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fab-Five: One Year later - Georgia's Story

Blog 5 of 5

Georgia, The Queen Bee
Georgia, the elder of the Fab Five would like to finish up the Fab Five Blog herself. Georgia used to have to worry about how she and the other Fab Five were being treated, the food they would get, the poor conditions they lived in. However, it does not take long for a girl to get used to the finer things in life. She is now living the life of a queen!

Hey ya’ll, Mama doesn’t know this, but I’ve been sneaking on her computer and watching all the antics going on and learning about my brothers and sisters.  Some of ya’ll are very clever!  Some even have their own Facebook page! I must get one of those! EVIL HEHEHE! Inserted here!

Now, I used to worry about getting food and my mom said I would never have to worry again, but get this...  Yesterday Mama didn’t feed me breakie!  After all I do for her??  The nerve!  I’m the first to greet her when I hear the truck door slam and the key hit the lock.  I welcome Mama with a great big hearty GSD WOOF WOOF!!!!

I am also the first on alert when we are home alone with Mama and I hear that truck outside and the door opening and I once again PROTECT Mama to let her know someone is coming to the door.  I give that great big WOOF WOOF and this time my sisters join in.  NO ONE and I MEAN NO ONE is going to hurt my Mama!  I don’t care if it is Dada!

They EVEN make me do chores!
So anyways, back to my story of no breakie!  The “Mama” finally comes home and I had to tell her off, my tummy was growling, what else should have I done, Right?  It starts out all normal, I bark, she comes in, puts her stuff down, pets us, lets us out to do our business and leaves us out there ALONE! So I of course I have to let Mama know “ROO ROO ROO!”
Give me my BREAKIE!!!!!
“ROO ROO ROO”!  She must have heard me cuz she let us in and started making breakie (did I tell you it is now LUNCHTIME)!  Ya’ll must understand that I’m a southern belle and politely wait on my bed for my meal to be served to me.  Well not this time!  I ROO ROO’d Mama because she was too slow!  But, because I’m a true southern belle I was on my bed by the time Mama served my breakie (wait LUNCH).

I just cannot believe that one day I had to wait until 11:30am to get my breakfast! Aunt Angie, could you have a talk with my mama?

“Georgia, GEORGIA move over, what are you doin?  All I hear is you and Crazy (CJ) giggling”!  “Let me have that laptop”!

OOPS ya’ll I gotta go! Busted!  Georgia out!

Ok, OK Georgia’s Mama here and I read her story.  Very entertaining if I must say so myself!  But in my defense let me tell you my side of this tale.

Yes, I admit I didn’t feed the girls breakie yesterday morning, but as I was leaving the house at 0’dark thirty EVERYONE but me was sleeping all snug as a bug in their beds!  Including Dada!  No one even moved! What was I supposed to do? Leave breakfast sitting out?  Heaven forbid if the “neglected” kids miss a meal!  I was home by 11:30 to feed them.
Sis's Sharing
As you can see Sweet Georgia Girl has finally realized that she is not going anywhere no matter what she does and has started to “train” Mama and Dadda! We can’t help but smile at the smallest “dog” things that Georgia does from throwing a toy in the air to barking at the neighbor’s dog!  We love our almost 11 year old PUPPY!

Georgia is spoiled rotten and lovin’ life.  She even smiles and when she gets on her big bed to sleep. She sleeps so comfy that we have to check if she is breathing (talk about be comfy).

A GREAT big hug and THANK YOU to Auntie Angie for saving these great dogs and GSRA taking them into their care.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Fab Five: One Year Later - Tina's Story

From Cris H. Tina's Foster and Forever Mom

Tina on her porch
Where do I start with Tina? Tina was the most difficult case I have ever experienced. In the past, we had what we called the 14 day rule. Within 14 days, the dog will settle into the pack and all will be well! Not true in Tina’s case. She was more emotionally scarred than we knew and sicker than we knew when she came to us.

If you followed this blog, you will remember that Tina’s only goal was to escape my house, escape my yard and return to her kennel in NC. She didn’t pee for over 70 hrs and refused to eat anything. I hand (I mean force) fed her for over a month. When Tina would start to show progress, she would get sick again. No one knew what was wrong. This shepherd was only 63 lbs and wasting away every day. Luckily for her, she bloated right before Christmas 2011. I say lucky, because we got her into surgery in time and found lesions on her intestines while they were doing surgery. It turned out that Tina had an intestinal disease that was stopping her from digesting food properly! A special diet, antibiotics and B-12 shots were all she needed!

Asher taking Tina to the vet
Tina had other issues, she loves me unconditionally and I think she worships the ground I walk on, but she HATED my husband. In October, she bit him so severely he had to have surgery. Tina is not a bad dog or an aggressive dog – She is a dog so scarred by her abusive past that she could not get over her fear of men. With this turn of events, I knew I could not adopt her out to a home with a man and I began to fear for Tina’s future.

I will spare you the long story of my begging and whining and begging some more. On Christmas Eve, 2011 my husband gave me a bow to put on Tina’s head (he gave it to me, instead of putting it on her because he was scared to touch her!). Tina became my dog.

Fast forward 1 year from the time I picked her up. Tina is now a healthy 85 lbs!!! She is on a special diet that she adores. She loves her brothers and sisters and looks forward to ball every night. She doesn’t play ball, she just chases and barks at the other dogs while they play. Tina gives me the BEST hugs every morning and is happy as can be….well… except for one problem – My husband.

The relationship between them did not improve over the year. He could not freely walk in the house because Tina barked and growled. I really did wonder when his patience would finally wear out and he would tell me Tina could not stay. We tried everything and she just would not warm up to him.

My husband is in the Army and was away for a month. While he was gone, Tina was so relaxed and happy in the house. I assumed it was because she finally got rid of him! I decided to try something different. Every night I tied an article of his clothing to her collar. I made her wear this in the house while everyone was calm and happy. I had to tie the clothes to her because she even ran from his clothes!

The night came for my husband to come home, so I took Tina with me to the hangar to pick him up. He wasn’t excited to see her, but I told him this would be a new day (or at least I hoped). Tina took all those soldiers in stride. I kept a short leash on her and told everyone who approached her that she doesn’t like men, so please don’t come close. However, several were not afraid and petted her anyway. She was scared, but she accepted it!

Tina signing out after a long day of play
Miracles happen if you just have patience! Tina brought her Papa home to the other dogs and she was VERY proud of this fact. No more barking, no more growling and no more standoffs in the bathroom at 4 am! No more stress and fear. It took a year, but Tina finally let go of her past and I truly believe she is living in the now and is happy. I love Tina more than I ever thought I could. It is impossible for me to reconcile this love with the fact she has only been with me a year. I cherish the time I have with her and hope that she has many more happy years with me. But, I believe she no longer remembers the “time before” so any time we have now is a glorious gift. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fab Five - One Year Later - Queenie's Story

Before you read Queenie's story, see the video she made especially for this blog. Don't be sad when you read her blog, she is so very happy now!
An Interview with Miss Queenie

It was a little over a year ago when I first laid eyes on Queenie. At that time, she was a gorgeous but rail-thin, terrified, unsocialized, young GSD, quivering like a mess at the end of her dog run. I was trying to get her out of the kennel so I could wash her - both to cool her off and to make her feel a little more comfortable. Angie had told me that she would be hard to catch, even in the 3 X 10 dog run that she had been confined to since her birth some 3 years prior. As far as we know, she hadn't had any human contact - or if she did, it was fleeting and not enough for her to feel comfortable with people. So, on that unbearably hot Memorial Day, I went into the kennel and into her run, forcing her to flee through the dog door into the outside portion of her dog run. I then closed the dog door and walked around to the back of the kennel and entered her run that way. She had no where to go since I had blocked off the dog door, so as I approached, the only thing she could do was cower on the floor and shake violently. I tried talking quietly to her, trying to minimize the terror she obviously felt towards having a person so close, but nothing helped. I didn't have any other option but to loop the leash around her neck and pretty much drag her out of the run. As it turned out, washing Queenie that day was out of the question. She couldn't be held and just the mere sight of the water hose freaked her out and had her twisting and turning and fighting to get away from us. We tried bringing her kennel mate Tina closer to her and that seemed to calm her a little, but even with Tina present, subjecting Queenie to a bath would have done more harm than good. So we let her be.

It was both heartbreaking and sickening that such a gorgeous creature could be so afraid. I remember watching Queenie and her brother Gunner when they were on the grass outside of their run that day. I remember looking at their confusion and high stepping and wondering if they had ever even been on grass before. I think all of us who worked with the Fab Five figured that, while the older dogs might have been taken to shows and handled by their breeder before he became sick, the two youngsters - Gunner and Queenie - probably had been born at a time when the kennel was already winding down, or essentially non-operational. So, while they were fed and medicated (all seven dogs from this kennel were heartworm negative, proving that the breeder had at least kept up with monthly heartworm preventative), they had never had any human social contact - petting, handling, leash training etc. But it wasn't just people that freaked these dogs out - it was EVERYTHING outside of their 3 X 10 dog runs: grass, cars, roads, noises, other animals. Every dog we liberated from those kennels back then faced a long, up-hill trek in order to be happy, healthy dogs with a true quality of life. Even though Queenie was physically healthy, and faced none of the medical battles the older 5 had, she had PLENTY of scars on the inside, which ended up taking just as long, if not longer, to heal.

When we first brought Queenie home with us we knew we were in for some tough times. We had learned from Gunner's experience (he was sprung from the kennel a week before Queenie was) that Queenie was most likely going to be terrified of being crated. Having 6 other dogs in the home at the time, it was essential that we be able to keep Queenie separate - at least in the beginning - and so we built an inside 10 X 10 kennel for her in our basement. We made sure that the other dogs were always close by when we kenneled her, but even that did little to calm her fears of being confined. When we put water bowls in with her she would up end them and spill the water. If we put a dog bed in with her she would shred it to pieces. The wire frame of the pen was continually bent and distorted by her efforts to get out and the exposed walls of the basement that made up 2 sides of her pen were stripped of all their paint as she scratched and clawed and jumped up and down to try to get out. Interestingly, she would be fine in the pen if you stood right next to it, or even if you sat on the couch in the same room as the pen and watched TV. But as soon as you went to leave the room, she would start to panic. You could hear her breathing start to increase, she would start to pace frantically, she would cry and really, almost wail. She would work herself up so much that the froth would accumulate around her mouth and onto her chest. It was pitiful and heart wrenching. We persisted for some time, but in the end, it was too much for all of us to bare. So, we bought a few more babygates and did some creative corralling and came up with a way that we could keep Queenie safe and separated if need be, without having to confine her to a crate or a pen.

Queenie's Drive-by Loving from the Early Days
Not being able to be confined was just one of the many quirks that we discovered about Queenie. Another one is that she absolutely REFUSES to eat out of a metal bowl. In fact, to begin with, getting her to eat was a real battle. I think it was week three before she started to eat in any appreciable quantity. To this day she is not a highly motivated eater, but, as with the crating issue, we have found ways to work around this issue. We started out by trying different materials for her food bowl. We ruled out: metal, glass, hard plastic and paper plates before landing on plastic picnic plates. We also had to explore different places around the house in order to find somewhere Queenie felt comfortable and safe enough in which to eat. She didn't like the kitchen, the living room, the back deck. The basement was also out as she refuses to go down there at all - no dout traumatized by her experience in the pen (yeah - that's a subject of personal guilt for both of us!!). So then we tried the upstairs hall way. Turns out, if we used a foot stool to raise up her plate, and we put it behind the babygate at the top of the stairs, where she can see everything happening below, that she will eat....most of the time. Often times she needs one of us to sit with her and talk to her as she eats. Oh, and I know, I can hear all of you saying, "wow, I would just leave her be and if she eats she eats and if she doesn't she goes hungry!". Normally I would agree with you all on this, but in Queenie's case, I think she could truly go without eating for a long time - possibly a week or more - and as she is still underweight, that would lead to more issues for her. So, for now, if she needs some prodding, so be it - each morning one of us will sit on the steps in front of her, encouraging her to finish up all of her dinner :)

Queenie and Muuf
Living with Queenie (who we affectionately call Turtle) day in and day out can make you forget the incredible milestones this dog has made in just one year. It can get demoralizing when she still jumps in fright when she hears an ice-cube drop out of the ice machine in the fridge, or when she freaks out when separated from her canine siblings. But in reality, she really HAS come a long way. Just last month she finished a 6 week obedience course! She didn't learn to sit, or to stay like the other dogs in the class, but by the end of the 6 weeks she DID have her tail out at all times (not tucked up underneath her) and she did finally relax in front of strangers enough to let people approach and pat her. This was a HUGE accomplishment for her. We took her on a pack walk with our trainer and about 20 other people and dogs a couple of weeks ago and she was visibly happy to be out and about. The old Queenie would have been panicking the entire mile and a half that we walked - tail tucked underneath her, ears flattened to her head, pulling on the leash to try to get back to the car. The new Queenie however, was happy walking amongst the people and the dogs and even did her fair share of sniffing and tail wagging! She has also learned that riding in the car is FUN!! She likes to "surf" with her front legs on the center console - staring out the front window and occasionally giving us kisses. The BIGGEST change though that we have seen in her is that she now knows what it means to PLAY!!

Queenie and Floyd Playing
Queenie has the most carefree, crazy, happy and funny spirit when she forgets to be worried about stuff. We will often find her out in the yard, pouncing at sticks or blades of grass. She will try to engage one of the other dogs in play, but if they aren't interested, she will make up her own games :) We like to say that Queenie has a very rich inner life :) Each of our other dogs have taken to her and seem to understand that she is a little "special". Gus, the leader of the canine pack, is her mentor and protector. He gets a little exasperated with her at times - like when he is running full tilt to catch a squirrel and Queenie thinks it is a game of chase and nips him in the butt - still, he is mostly patient :) Muuf, our senior chow who is known to be pretty choosey about her friends also shows a great deal of understanding and tolerance for Queenie. Queenie is definitely missing some safety instincts when it comes to how far you should push Muuf - it's nothing for Queenie to run up and try to body slam Muuf. Normally, a dog who tried that would get the sharp end of a chow-chow reprimand. But Muuf just braces herself and looks at us as if to say, "is she serious???".
Queenie and her Papa
Then there is Floyd, Queenie's constant playmate and punching bag. Floyd is a roly-poly pit bull who taught Queenie how to wrestle. Hence, she now does it "pit bull style", up on her back legs, grabbing hold with her front legs and using her jaws to grab hold of Floyd's neck. Her objective - pin Floyd to the ground. Her success rate - about 75%...100% when Floyd is feeling lazy and finds it easier to just submit and get slobbered on :)

So now we are heading into year 2 of our life with Queenie. We both have high hopes for our little Turtle! We are going to continue with her socialization, maybe take in another class or 2 to see if she can master some commands, and really work on her self-confidence. We think the sky is the limit for this girl and we want to give her every opportunity to live life to the fullest. Our trainer has a great philosophy with dogs like Queenie. He says, the past is the past and today is the start of everything that is possible. He says we shouldn't pity dogs like Queenie, or lament at what a horrible start they had in life. He says that we should just keep moving forward, focusing on the good, working around the bad and just live in the moment. I'm pretty sure that Queenie would agree with that philosophy :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fab Five - One Year Later Part 2 of 5 - Gunner

Valerie W. Gunners Foster and Forever Mom

Last Memorial Day, I was asked by one of our Directors to go and help assess 7 dogs that were in Clayton needing rescue.  This was a day that I would never forget.  We met the Guardian Angel named Angie, a kindhearted, loving Animal Control Officer that was trying to find a rescue that would take these 7 dogs from a difficult neglect situation.  She devoted her time, energy, and love coming out twice a day, to feed and clean the kennels and spend time with them.  She did this for three months!   What we saw we would never forget.  These 7 magnificent dogs were shut down emotionally, in bad health situations, and needing to find foster homes ASAP.  We all vowed that day to get those dogs out and find foster homes for them.  We bathed and brushed them in 100 degree heat.  We took the dogs for a walk, but that feat in itself was challenging.  Each dog wanted desperately to get back into its safety zone of the small kennel walls. 

Gunner was the youngest of the Magnificent 7 dogs, which became the Fabulous Five.  He was two years old, living in a small kennel with his 11 yr old mother.  He was a frantic dog, scared of everything around him outside of his kennel walls.  Gunner’s first walk was done by a young Johnston County volunteer named  Allie. I should say that Gunner took her for a walk, since he was wild on a leash- LOL!  To see all of these people there to help was such a heartwarming feeling, each one coming out on this hot day to help these animals.  This was true rescue, down in the trenches amongst the dirt and filth.  In rescue, it is our gift to see beyond the sadness and defeat, and see the true soul that lies beneath that exterior.  These dogs had such huge potential that we just couldn’t leave them behind.  We started going out to see them in our spare time, and with each visit there, they started opening up more.  A moment that I will never forget was when Andrea, Angie, and I took all five dogs for a walk.  They were actually happy now to be outside of the kennel, and Tina, Buster, Queenie, and Gunner wanted to continue to walk longer distances, but Georgia wanted to head home since she just wasn’t quite ready yet to be out for long periods of time.  Seeing the happiness on their faces and made it all worthwhile!

Gunner was skittish to human touch since this was a new experience for him.  Watching him walk on grass for the first time was almost heartbreaking, since the touch of the grass scared him.  He would walk around in circles and the longer that he was exposed to a new situation, the worse it would become to the point of spinning around.  We knew this dog would be one of the most difficult to handle since he spent his whole life in that kennel and had NO socialization.  Gunner came into foster care first.  He was the most nervous dog that I have ever experienced.  I spent the night on the floor with him with my hand on the crate door that first night.  As it turned out, Gunner cannot be crated.  It is too much for him to mentally deal with.  Slowly, day by day, he started to emerge into a different dog.  It did take me a month to house train him.  Our house became the safety place like his kennel was, so when he went outside, he would panic and make a run for the house.  It took lots of patience and treats, and then one day it just happened.  What a glorious day for me! 

Fast forward to one year later.  I adopted Gunner on Christmas Day.  I love this dog so much that I could never have let him go.  We have been through so much together and are extremely bonded!  Gunner has developed into a well-balanced, very happy boy.  He absolutely LOVES to play!  If no one is interested in playing with him, no worries, he will play by himself.  He will nip at a blade of grass and take off running.  He also loves to chase squirrels and has many to run after here!  
Gunner Does the Beach
He went to the beach last fall and absolutely LOVED walking in the ocean water and going for long walks.  I was very surprised, since he was completely out of his environment.  This was a huge turning point for him. He just walked straight into the ocean without hesitation!  Seeing the joy that it brought him, and therefore me, made it all worthwhile.   He was open to new experiences after his beach trip.  I really have to thank my current pack for helping to socialize Gunner.  People can only teach a dog so much, they learn much more from their pack members.  I do try to bring Gunner to some of the GSRA events, since this helps to continue to socialize him with other dogs and new people.  For a long time, Gunner was skittish to new people.  Now he goes up to them to say hello.  He is still cautious, but not afraid.  A big hurdle for him was when he started overcoming his fear of children.   I think that the quick sudden movements and higher energy levels of children would almost paralyze him with fear.   
For almost a year, he would quickly dart away from my 9 yr old daughter.  Now he goes up to her, will let her pet him, and often gives her licks of love!  He is able to comfortably lie next to her and will let her pet him and actually enjoy it. 
Gunner also during this past year underwent water therapy due to his conformation.  As you may remember, he has hip dysplasia, and due to his lack of exercise in his prior life and had poor muscle mass and strength.  We exercise him a lot with low impact activity, do sit and stand exercises, and he underwent water therapy on a treadmill.  The water therapy was a gift from another Guardian Angel!  We couldn’t have done it without him!   It has made a difference to Gunner, and he now sits up higher on his haunches.  His muscle tone is much better, and he has good muscle mass.

Gunner’s seizures have been few and far between, thank goodness.  The last one he had was at Bark Around the Park, and was just a mini seizure.  We continue to monitor for them, and if they become more frequent or severe, then we will have to start him on medication.  For now, we are sitting tight.

Gunner and his Papa Buster
In looking back at this past year, it has been a tremendous growing experience for my family and I.  We have watched Gunner turn into a well-balanced dog, who has a true love for life.  Seeing the happiness on his face and getting the best dog kisses ever make it all worthwhile.  Whenever I look at him, I see this happy goof ball and can’t help but smile.  He lifts my spirits up and makes me sit back and appreciate the little things that life has to offer.  He has been a true gift for me!  

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Fabulous Five - 1 Year Later

Part 1 of a 5 Part Series

These original Seven Dogs touched the life of so many. These are the reflections of the rescuers, 1 year later.

Angie L. the original rescuer of these beautiful dogs...

Reflecting back over the events of the past year brings back a flood of emotions! I fell in love with these dogs instantly (as we all did) . I first met these gorgeous dogs when they were at their lowest point in life. Diesel could not walk, Susanne had mammary tumors, Queenie and Gunner were terrified of their own shadows and Tina, Georgia and Buster joined everyone in being matted and neglected.

However, I saw hope and light. Each time I visited I saw these dogs begin to blossom and begin to change before my eyes. Each visit with the dogs resulted in a new breakthrough. Slowly, I was beginning to see lights come on in seven pairs of eyes! I, however, was drowning. Emotionally, I was drained. I knew no one that would or could help me. These dogs needed so much more than I could give them.

GSRA to the rescue!

Memorial day 2011, GSRA came with volunteers, good food, supplements and most importantly ….LOVE! From that moment on, we were not alone anymore. The dogs and I had friends that were unfailing in their dedication to helping save these dogs! I cannot adequately express the feeling of sheer relief that came to me when GSRA wrapped their arms around all eight if us and said “don't worry, we are here now”.

From that moment on, life got better. Diesel and Susanne went to the Rainbow bridge surrounded by the love of a GSRA volunteer and myself. Sadly, they were not freed from their past life in the way we all hoped for, but freed nonetheless with love. Over the next few weeks I watched these dogs leave…never to look back at the hell they lived for years.

In October, I got the honor to see the Fab Five all together again and loved by their families. This is by far, the most rewarding experience I have ever had! Not only did I help save these dogs, but I met the most fabulous people that I am honored to call my friends! Yesterday, I assessed another shepherd and last week I pulled another one from my local shelter that is now safe in a GSRA foster home. I am so happy to be a part of the lifesaving GSRA team and so happy that the fab five all got to know the love and security of a family.


Carol S. Buster's Foster Mom

Most people who have followed this blog and the story of the remarkable Fab Five know that we lost Buster shortly before Christmas 2011. I’ve struggled over what I wanted to say in this final public post about him. I’ve also struggled to choose just ONE favorite photo to post, but searching through the photos brought me to what I wanted to say. This photo was one of the first I ever took of him, taken the morning after his first night with me. My intent was to let him poke around in the yard, figuring out what this new place was, while I would work in the garden and keep a watchful eye on him. Wrong! It didn’t take him more than a few minutes to decide that I was the one who needed keeping an eye on, so he settled down at the edge of the garden and made sure I did things just right. This set the tone for pretty much all that followed with him; whatever I was doing, it must be intensely interesting and required his full attention! The thing I love most about this photo, and it took looking again after all this time to see it, is that it shows how willing he was to live in the “here and now,” rather than the “what was.” Look how much he’s come back to life after less than 24 hours in a dog-friendly home! He was blessedly free of the emotional scars that troubled the other dogs to varying degrees, somehow being able to never look back. Although we dearly wish he could have had longer in his new life, we truly did rescue his spirit. And that’s always the goal, isn’t it? Mission accomplished.

Stay Tuned for Gunner's "One Year Later" Update!!