Occupation: Elementary School Teacher
Location: Columbus, Ohio
I am a first time dog owner that is learning day by day. I love to tell everyone that will listen about my adoption experience. I was starting to fear that my friends were getting tired of hearing all about Finnegan, my precious 13 month old Wheaten Terrier, when, commissioned this space so that I can share this experience with all of you (maybe I won't bore my friends so much anymore). I hope you enjoy hearing our story.
My search for a dog all started about one year ago. Because I didn't have a certain type of dog in mind I did an online "dog match" quiz to try to figure out what breed would fit into my lifestyle the best. To my surprise Wheaten Terrier came up as a good match.
I'd never heard of the breed so I wasn't so sure about them. I like to plan and research any big decisions in my life so it took me several months to just learn and absorb as much as I could about the breed. The more I read the more I agreed that a Wheaten seemed like it would be a perfect match for me.
Now I had to find a Wheaten-no easy task. Breeders seemed to have long waiting lists and high prices (over $1,000 for a purebred). After my sister and brother-in-law adopted an adorable Sharpei, named Max, a few years ago I found out that there are dogs all over the country living in foster homes and shelters while they wait for a permanent home. So, my mind was made up and I started to look for Wheaten rescue sites online. I found two and sent them my adoption application about 6 months ago. I was discouraged at first because many of the dogs were located in Missouri or New Jersey -too far (I was told) from my Ohio home. I remained persistent and finally got a call from a rescue volunteer named Jacky saying that they had several Wheatens that they had rescued from a puppy mill. The one they thought would be the best for me was a 13-month-old male living at a foster home in Iowa.
I am a teacher and the phone call came on my last day of school before our long summer break. It couldn't have been better timing!
When Jacky, the rescue volunteer, called she had loads of information to tell me. His name was Duke but I was welcomed and encouraged to change it. He was 13 months old, born April 28, 2004. At the moment he was shy and reserved most likely because he hadn't been socialized with people or other animals yet. He'd been living in a pen at the puppy mill and wasn't housebroken. When they picked him up his hair was all matted so they had to shave it all off. She emailed me two pictures so that I could see him immediately. It was love at first sight! She gave me the phone number of the foster family and encouraged me to call them for more information.
My heart was racing. I couldn't believe how excited I was. After months of waiting it seemed like everything was happening so quickly. I called the foster family immediately and spent about 45 minutes talking to Ashton, the college aged daughter. She told me that Duke was a "peach". That he pranced around like a show dog and crossed his legs when he lay down. She told me that he is very timid and unsure but they didn't expect that to last once he got more comfortable. When he came to them he had a respiratory infection but was now healthy again. He'd been fixed and was up to date on all of his shots. She said that he is so photogenic that she had taken a roll of film just of him and that she was going to send the pictures in the mail immediately. Ashton's family has two Wheatens of their own so she shared all kinds of information with me about the breed. This family is amazing. They took in eight dogs from this puppy mill and were in the process of nursing them all back to health and loving them while they waited for their new homes. At the end of the conversation I was told that they want Christmas cards and updates of how Duke is doing and that they wanted me to let them know right away what I was going to rename him so that they could start calling him by his new name.
The rescue site has a transfer service where people all across the country volunteer their time to drive a segment of the trip to get the dog to its new owner. I was told that Duke could be here in a little over a week. The first thing that I did was figure out a name for my new pet. Wheatens come from Ireland and so I wanted him to have a proper Irish name. After much searching I came up with Finnegan. I will call him Finn for short. I called his foster family the next day to let them know his new name. They said they'd start using it so that he begins to recognize it. When I called they said that Finn was out running with another one of the male dogs that they were boarding. My little dog is getting socialized!
June 8, 2005
Yesterday I took my first trip to the pet store to start shopping for Finnegan. Because Wheatens have high maintenance coats, the first item I picked up was a wide toothed comb. I also got food and water bowls, treats to help reward him when he goes to the bathroom outside, pet stain remover (for when he doesn't make it outside in time), and lots of other stuff just for fun. I chose to forgo the aisle full of clothes for dogs… somehow I don't think this active little guy is going to want to be encumbered with a pair of jeans and a jean jacket while we romp in the park! I was lucky that a friend is giving me a crate and that he is coming with a new collar and leash.
While I was at the pet store I also talked to the trainer about obedience classes. She seemed great! She told me that Finnegan could be in the puppy class (since he's not house broken yet) even though he's 13 months old and not truly a puppy. I'm planing on starting those classes right away.
Jacky, from the rescue site, emailed Finnegan's transfer schedule today. Looks like he will have 6 different people driving the various legs from Iowa to Ohio. I will pick him up in eastern Indiana for the final leg of the trip. He will be here in 3 days!!!
June 12, 2005
A New Beginning Yesterday was a long day for Finnegan and for me. He started his trip from Oxford, Iowa at 7 a.m. and didn't reach Columbus, Ohio and his new home until about 9:30 p.m. All day long I got calls from the transfer coordinator giving me updates on his status. He got delayed in some traffic around Peoria, Illinois and went to the bathroom in Champaign, Illinois… .I heard it all and was grateful for each update. I was a little bit nervous. A year of waiting and my puppy was almost here!
Each person involved in the transfer said the same thing… ."he's so quiet, hasn't made a sound" or "he's a timid little guy". And indeed he is so far. When I met Larry, the last volunteer driver, in Dayton, Ohio. Finn was shaking like a leaf. He looked at me with big, sad brown eyes and a look of horror on his face as if to say, "Oh no, not another car ride today". There was no need to delay his misery so I picked his shaking little body up and placed him in his crate for the last leg of his journey. He crawled to the back of the crate but my boyfriend was driving so I was still able to reach him and pet him the whole way home.
His foster home warned me that he was in need of a bath so I had the towels and shampoo ready at home but could I really subject him to this after such a long day? After an hour and a half with him in my small car I decided YES he needed a bath before bedtime… .he was one stinky dog!
When we got home I let him sniff around the yard and rewarded him when he went potty outside. Then he found the furthest back corner of my yard and backed himself into the muddy corner of my garden and just lay there. I decided to give him some space and eventually he came and found me in another part of the yard.
The mosquitoes were out and so it was time to come in… not as easy as it sounds when you have a timid little dog that doesn't trust you yet. Getting him to come inside was hard. I finally just picked him up and carried him in. I had envisioned him running all over the house and smelling every inch of it but instead he just stuck to one small area and sniffed around.
I hated to do it but it was bath time. I don't know who got more wet, Finnegan or myself. He tried to get out of the tub several times and it was a long process. Once he was out and toweled off he stopped shaking and was very good when I cleaned out his ears. He didn't like the blow dryer though so he only got half dried. He was so cute!
By this time it was well after midnight and I was exhausted. He still had no interest in food so it was time to put him in his crate for the night. Ughhhh! Another battle! After several minutes of trying to cajole him in I finally picked him up and placed him in. Neither of us got much sleep last night, though. Although he never whimpered I woke up each time he moved around or shifted in his crate. At 7 a.m. I took him out and he went potty outside! Of course he got much praise for this. So far no accidents in the house!! He's had a rough 24 hours. I have no idea what is in store for us today!
I was told that Finn was coming to me without being house trained yet. I've never potty trained a pet and had no idea how to go about it. My friend told me, "Don't worry Jen, I don't know how to potty train my two year old daughter either. You'll figure it out."
Luckily there is a lot of information out there. I bought the "needed" supplies- neutralizing spray to clean up after accidents and puppy pads. To my surprise I haven't needed either of them. I take him out about four times each day. First thing in the morning, after he eats in the morning and evening and before he goes to his crate for the night. He is 13 months old so maybe this is why it's been so easy? My grandma says it's because he's never lived in a house before so he doesn't realize that going to the bathroom in the house is an option. Whatever the reason I don't really care. I'm just so happy that I don't have to worry about it!!! He's such a good boy!
I understood that Finn hadn't had a lot of socialization in his life and that this was something I would need to work on. What I didn't know is that he would be afraid of the t.v. To him is must seem like a big, mean monster because he avoids it at all costs. When I put the t.v. on the first time in his presence he turned on his heels and tried to bolt out of the room and into his crate as quickly as he could. Unfortunately he slipped on my hardwood floor and completely wiped out. Did I mention that my little guy is pretty clumsy?
Well, since the t.v. Incident he's shown his fears in many different ways. When someone comes to the door he runs to the furthest corner, on walks he'll stop and cower if someone comes directly toward him. I have to explain that he's a rescue dog and is still trying to get acclimated. I hope that one day I don't have to make this little speech anymore. Everyone wants to love him but he's just too afraid of them. We're taking it one day at a time.
Finn didn't get to play with toys the first year of his life. Can you imagine? I guess toys aren't part of life in a puppy mill. But don't you worry; I'm taking care of that. He now has chew toys, braided ropes, squeaky toys, and all kinds of bones to gnaw on. He is so darn cute when he plays with them. He loves to pounce on them as if they were alive and trying to run away. I could watch him play with his toys for hours except that his attention span isn't that long and just as I get my camera out to capture these fun moments on film he decides that he's had enough and saunters off… .usually back to his safe haven… his beloved crate.
After a Couple Weeks
Finnegan has been with me for a few weeks and he is still afraid of everything! The other day there were dogs barking on the t.v. set and he actually came in the room and stopped to watch it. He tried to sniff the t.v. and figure out if they were real or not. He backed up and sat down and watched for awhile until the dogs went away. I think that was progress!
His newest experience was the dishwasher… not the noise of it running just me opening it. He jumped back when I opened it but then slowly walked back toward it before he left the room for good. Everything is new to a dog that has never lived inside.
Men, strangers and just about everybody but me continue to be really scary to him. He lets me sit with him and brush him and pet him but still shows signs of mistrust when I walk straight toward him. I've decided to talk to a behaviorist to see if there is something else I can do to help him get over his fears. I've read Nicholas Dodman's book "The Dog Who Loved Too Much" which was great but didn't have any cases of dogs that suffer from fear without aggression.
He is so sweet and adorable. When it's just the two of us he'll play in the yard with me and we have a great time but if anyone comes over he cowers in the corner. The poor little guy! I'm determined to help this puppy get over his fears.
Brushing Finnegan's Teeth
Who knew that you had to brush a dog's teeth? I've heard people talking about brushing their dog's teeth but kind of wrote them off as "fanatic dog owners". You know, the kind of people that dress their pets and let them sit at the dinner table with them. It wasn't until I had my own doggy that I realized that dogs seriously need to have their teeth brushed. I had no idea! I met people in the waiting room at the vet's office that had pets with serious teeth problems. Some of the pets were getting their teeth extracted and others had contracted other health issues related to poor oral hygiene.
Wanting to do everything right, I immediately went out and bought toothbrushes and some toothpaste for my little guy. Because he has a serious case of doggy breath I opted for the mint toothpaste as opposed to the chicken flavored paste. The kit I bought came with a long toothbrush and a finger brush. As suggested by my vet I started by putting some paste on my finger and letting him lick it off. He seemed to love it so after a few days of that I put some on the toothbrush and let him lick it off of the brush. He devoured it off of the brush as well. Wow, it seemed too easy. Now that I knew that he liked the flavor it was time to start actually brushing his teeth. Ah, that didn't prove to be as easy. This is my guy who doesn't mind his ears being cleaned or medicated, is pretty good at staying still when I brush him and clean his eyes. I started with the finger brush. He immediately started to lick off the paste but refused to let me open his mouth. After several attempts I gave up and let him lick the rest of the paste off of the brush. I suppose that I wasn't firm enough. I'll have to work on that. Tomorrow I'll try the long brush and maybe have more luck!
Will I ever give him a daily dose of teeth cleaning? Probably not but I would like to do it at least twice a week. I think that I have my work cut out for me!
As I review my blog and look longingly back at my dental care troubles, little did I know this was the beginning of my problems!
FINN GETS AWAY!
Day 1 Afternoon - I was at a family reunion with my boyfriend, Dan, when Finnegan got away. When I got the call that he got loose, we jumped in the car and it was a loooonnnng three hour drive home. Finnegan was staying with my mom and had just finished a walk when he "put on the breaks". He often has this fear reaction before crossing the threshold of a house. He proceeded to back up right out of his slip collar and this was the start of our long 4 day search. I don't recommend any type of slip or choke collar for rescue dogs that have a lot of fear. He immediately ran from the house and was chased onto the nearby golf course. He avoided the golfers trying to get him at all costs including swimming across several ponds. We didn't even know he could swim. Everyone eventually lost site of him. We proceeded to put up hundreds of fliers around the golf course and surrounding neighborhoods until the wee hours of the morning.
Day 2 Early Morning - At about 5 am we got a call from a local newspaper delivery person who saw Finnegan in the Brooksong neighborhood just west of the golf course. We rushed to the area and spotted him. He popped his head up over a dirt mound and looked as cute as can be. He was muddy from head to toe and looked at us as if to say, " I'm having the time of my life!" I slowly got out of the car and quietly called his name. He just looked at me and started to walk away. As I slowy approached him he started to gain speed. Before I knew it I had chased him through several yards and down a long street. I panicked when he approached Taylor Road which can be quite busy. He just continued to charge on. Every once in a while he'd stop and look at me and think about coming toward me but then change his mind and keep getting further away. He eventually crossed a very busy road and went down a long drive to a power plant. I followed him all the way there, through heavy brush, and lost him in the back of the plant. I had been running for quite a while and really had no idea where I was. Eventually Dan found our car and me and we searched for hours while putting fliers up in the area across Taylor Rd. which is mostly industrial and businesses strewn across large fields. We decided to put his crate and favorite toy in the area in hopes that he'd find it and decide to take a rest .
Day 2 Evening - At about 4:00 p.m the house next to the power plant called to say that they saw Finnegan in the same area we lost him earlier that day. We didn't see him when we first arrived so we talked to the family that spotted him and then proceeded to go search the area behind the plant which is full of fields and industrial buildings.Because Finn has always responded well to other dogs, they let me use their friendly black Lab to search the area. We put tons of signs up but since it was a holiday no one was working. Around 7 pm we went back to the power plant and found him sitting at the end of the long drive, about 100 yards away. He appeared to be eying his crate. Once again I tried to softly call him to me. He'd hesitate and look at me and then trot further away. I stayed there and Dan drove the car behind the plant and tried to see if there was a way for him to get through the heavy brush and marsh on the other side. I watched Finn walk up the drive toward his crate. He would walk a few feet and then run back the other way each time he heard a noise. One of the times that he disappeared I put a hamburger in the back of the crate and tied a string to the door. We hid in our car and hoped that he'd get in his crate to eat the burger and we could shut the door on him. At this point we thought that this would be an easy way to catch him. We were only a day into the search and still very naïve and had no idea how smart this little guy was and how well his survival instincts had kicked in. This went on for hours. He'd stretch his body to the back of the crate to get the food that we left but would never get all the way into the crate. After he'd eat it he would run away for a while and we'd put more food in hoping the next time he'd get all the way into his crate. By this time it was after 10 and the fireworks were going off all around us. Surprisingly they didn't freak him out as much as we thought they would. The lure of the food seemed to overpower his fear of the fireworks. By the end of the night he'd eaten two burgers, a hotdog and about ½ pound of roast beef but we still hadn't been able to catch him. We set up cars with headlights on so we could see the area close to Taylor Rd. At about 1 am we spotted him jetting past a car and back across Taylor Rd. At that point we lost him again. This was the most devastating loss because the next morning would be a normal business day and traffic would be busy. We were scared for him.
Day 3 Morning - We went to the area at daybreak and just searched everywhere we thought he may be. There was no sight of him.
Day 3 Noonish - We received a call that Finnegan was spotted on the other side of the golf course from where we were looking in some woods across Havens Corner Rd. This is a very busy street so we were concerned that he had crossed it. When we arrived we could see him deep in the woods and determined he was trapped on two sides by a wire fence and a large stream. It started raining quite hard at this point and we think he was trying to get out of the rain by going in the woods. We setup a safety fence barricade along Havens Corner Rd. to keep him in on 3 sides and called animal control. The 4th side was heavy brush so we thought he would not try to venture that way. The animal control person arrived and walked into the woods to attempt to capture him with one of those dog neck loop things. Finnegan barked at him twice and then got by him and ran east through the heavy brush where he was lost again. We didn't know if he was still in the area or not until we received a call from someone in the subdivision back across Havens Corner Rd. telling us they spotted him in their yard. We searched but found nothing… .
SEARCHING FOR FINN!
Day 3 Evening - We received a call that Finnegan was spotted in the Gahanna Nature Preserve which is west of the golf course across yet another busy road called Taylor Station Rd… When we drove to that area we spotted him along the side of this road resting. We panicked. We didn't want to chase him back onto the road. We pulled off into a neighborhood on the other side. When he noticed the car he got up and started walking north along the road away from us. We moved the car out of view so he wouldn't panic and after a few minutes drove back by the spot but didn't see him. We lost him again. We looked around the area where he was and found two breaks in the wire fence between the reserve and Taylor Station Rd. where he must have went back in. We used some of the barricade fencing to seal those breaks up so he wouldn't exit the reserve that way again which would put him right next to the busy road. We split up searching the nature preserve when I stumbled across him again. I held out a hunk of roast beef and talked softly to him, but he was startled by someone else in the preserve, ran off and we lost site of him again. We received another call at around 9 pm from someone in a neighborhood even further west of the nature preserve stating they spotted him. He had no flyers in this area, but it just so happened that friends of theirs who lived back on Oak Hill Rd. were visiting and remembered seeing the sign. We arrived at their house and there was no sign of him. Their backyard is next to the far west end of the nature preserve. We assumed he was back in the preserve and it was dark so we hoped he would sleep there. I borrowed a friend's Cocker Spaniel that Finn had gotten friendly with and we went walking through the preserve in hopes that Finn would want to come see his friend Sherman. But, there was no luck. We put signs up all over that neighborhood and started to worry because he was heading very far west of where he was lost. Before heading home we again setup his crate in the area the dispatch delivery person first saw thinking he may also venture back there to sleep over night and we wanted to keep him from going further west.
Day 4 Noonish - I purchased a large fishing net thinking that if I got close enough to Finnegan again I might be able to throw the net over him and tangle him up since he won't come to me and is too quick to catch or laso a leash around. I walked through the preserve praying to see him but never did. We had no calls from Finnegan spotters all morning. We finally got a call that he was back around the area where we left his crate. Once we arrived we saw him sleeping on a small pedestrain bridge. He looked adorable and peaceful as if he were posing for a picture. He was about 5 feet from his crate. Dan drove around to the other side of the neighborhood with the net to try to trap him on the bridge while I attempted to approach him slowly. I think this plan would have worked but we had interference from someone in the neighborhood and he side stepped us. We followed him back to the golf course and lost him. After 3 days of running he is still very quick. He seemed to know how to conserve his energy because when we spotted him from a distance he would be resting or slowly walking but as soon as we got near him he would bolt.
Day 4 Late Evening - We received a call that Finnegan had been hanging out at a farm house north of the busy Havens Corner Rd. We had no idea he had been back over in that area until we got this call. The person said Finnegan was laying in his yard watching him cut the grass. He also said he was eating some of his dog's food periodically and he had been over there several times in the past couple of days. The person said everytime they would try to approach him he would run away. Shortly thereafter, we then got another call that he was back across Havens Corner Rd. in the Wind Rush Division again, the same area we left his crate. We setup a home made cage trap next to his crate. While we were setting it up we spotted Finnegan. He seemed more curious about what we were doing than scared and didn't immediately run this time. We didn't have the net with us this time. We got back in the car and sat there. He came within 20 feet of the car and lay down in the grass. We moved the car about 20 more feet away from him and he followed us. We then opened the door and softly called his name and squeaked his favorite toy. He was curious but in no way came very close to the car. We moved the car further away from him and he followed but would not get close to it. I got out of the car and tried to approach him. He cautiously stayed about 20 feet away. I then walked over to the crate and trap and he followed me… He smelled the food in the trap and after much hesitation entered. I was about 15 feet away. He triggered the door but it bumped on his back and he backed right out of the trap as I lunged toward it to keep him in. He was too quick and slid out of my hands and proceeded to run about 30 feet away, stop, and then turn around and let out 4 loud barks. He then slowly walked out of sight. At this point it was about 3 am so we decided to just reset the cage trap and hope for the best overnight.
Day 5 Morning - Upon returning to the site there was no sign that he attempted to re-enter the cage trap to eat the food we left him.However, we now knew where his "home base" was so we persuaded the animal control person to come out and set a live trap for us. They wouldn't do this for us earlier because he kept being spotted in different areas which were miles apart. However, I believe that our persistence paid off. At about 10:30 am the same person that came out with the dog catching "loop" brought out a large wire cage that was about 5 feet long and had a pad that would trigger the door to close when Finn stepped on it… We put some really good roast beef in the back of the trap, took our home made trap away thinking that Finnegan would never again enter it after what happened the previous night, and we left the area and heard nothing until about 1 pm when we got a truly amazing call. My parents drove by the trap and Finnegan was inside! We actually recovered him after 4 lucky days of running, swimming, hiding, major street crossing and dodging people trying to help him. We took him straight to the groomers where he was looked at by a vet, bathed and de-burred. The vet stated that he must have some cat in him for surviving this ordeal. He is now safe and sound again at my home. We are so lucky!
Finn Returns Home
Finn spent his first two days back home sleeping. He'd wake up just long enough to eat and then fall right back to sleep. He was one tired boy! He didn't even have enough energy to do his normal avoidance tactics when people came around. After his two day rest period he was showing improvement. We got him a gentle leader collar and he was doing well on his walks. He didn't pull nearly as much and was showing some signs of confidence. Unfortunately that all ended when we encountered a wood chipper while on a walk one day. We were just one house away from our home when the man operating the machine turned it on. It was very loud and Finnegan freaked out. He had to be carried back home and hasn't been the same since. It is a battle to get him out of the house to go to the bathroom. He constantly pulls on his lead and tries to get back to the house. I have started to just walk him around the backyard instead of out in the neighborhood. He does better there but it's still tough to even get him outside. Most dogs that I've known get so excited to go on a walk that you can't even say the word "walk" without them going crazy. I'm in over my head with this guy so I will be taking him to the behaviorist this week for some help.
A Visit to the Behaviorist
We met with the behaviorist for about an hour. She labeled Finn "globally fearful" with the possibility of also having Separation Anxiety. She is suspecting Separation Anxiety because when left home alone in his crate he barks and has also pooped in it. He doesn't do either of these when I'm home with him. It's funny that a dog that seems so afraid of people could also have Separation Anxiety. He's "globally" fearful because he's afraid of noises and people as well as crossing thresholds, going outside, etc… .
Because he is too fearful to take treats when around other people he has been very hard to train. She thinks that Prozac will help reduce his anxiety so that I can begin working on training and behavior modification with him. Hopefully he will respond well to the medication and won't need to be on it for long. I took Finnegan to the vet yesterday to have bloodwork done. They needed to check his kidneys and liver before they could prescribe the medication. The vet said that his organs were functioning well and she wrote the prescription for me. He was such a good boy while having his blood drawn. He hated the waiting room, though. He just cowered and panted the whole time.
I'm worried that putting him on medication might not be the best thing for him so I'm going to do a little more research before I fill the prescription. I just want him to be happy. Right now he doesn't even seem to be comfortable in his own skin. I have one month before school starts and I have to go back to work. I think that I'm going to have my work cut out for me!
To Medicate or Not to Medicate
I just wasn't feeling right about putting Finnegan on the Prozac so I spoke with another behaviorist and she didn't think that I should put Finn on the medication. Her recommendation was to have him stay with her for 10 days. He would be living in her house with her husband, kids and dogs. Her feeling is that she can break him out of his shell in this environment. I initially decided to do go with her plan because this behaviorist came highly recommended. A friend of mine said that she has seen her change a dog that cowers form fear in the back of a crate into a dog that will greet visitors at the front door. That's exactly what I'd like to see happen with Finnegan.
As hard as it was going to be to hand him over to someone else for ten days, I was ready to try it. But, then he started to show small improvements. I used to have to drag him outside to go to the bathroom and all of a sudden he started to stand by the backdoor when he has to go to the bathroom. That's huge progress for him! He's also starting to sniff around the house and play with his toys so that is good to see.
I called the behaviorist today and she was thrilled to hear Finnegan's progress. We both agree to give him some more time at home with me and see if he still shows progress. Hey, at this rate we might actually be able to go out on a walk in the neighborhood soon!
No Prozac for the Puppy
I have not put Finn on the Prozac because he has been showing signs of progress. However, he did start an annoying little habit of staying up all night lo