Love Letter of the Month: Ashley and Titan

If you read my last blog post, you'll know that I have decided to start a passion project with a mission to give rescue dog moms a chance to express their feelings and write an honest letter to their sweet pup. I want to kick off this project with a dear friend of mine Ashley and her darling little chihuahua Titan! Little Titan is reactive but Ashley is one of the most dedicated dog moms I have ever met. The two of them are on such an incredible journey together, I knew her words could inspire and resonate with many of you! When I first read her letter it made me cry and every single time I've read it since, tears have always come. So don't say I didn't warn you - prepare some tissues before you start reading! 

Ashley-and-Titan

Dear Titan: An Open Letter to my Best Friend

Written by Ashley Nequest


Dear Titan Warren Nequest/Love Bug/Monkey/Chicken/Fluffy Butt,

You changed me. Thank you. 

I imagined myself being the kind of owner that only let their dog on the furniture when they’re invited up, that never let them sleep in the human’s bed. I had visions of having a full social life that didn’t involve me introducing my pet as the main topic of conversation at every possible chance. I was going to be a dog owner; nothing more. And I was… Until we were about 10 minutes into the drive home from the shelter, suddenly a seven-month-old, reactive, rescue chihuahua mix had my entire heart. 

A few days after I brought you home you met Zoe, your favourite poodle, for the first time. I was able to watch you run, play and be a puppy, it was so completely freeing. Though, between rounds you would walk the fence line, sticking your little nose under at every possible opportunity. It took less than ten seconds for you to get your entire body under the gate. By the time I had flung it open you were almost at the street. All I remember is calling your name, which you didn’t know, and dropping to my knees feeling an overwhelming level of helplessness. I also remember the utter relief as you turned around and came flying right into my arms. That was the moment it happened, the exact moment the world shifted and everything clicked into place. That was the exact moment I stopped being a dog owner and became a dog mom. 

The first time I experienced your reactivity was more than a little alarming for me.

I called my mother at 6 a.m. crying because this sweet little thing I brought home had spent the entire night barking at people in the park. You lunged at the end of the leash growling and snarling at every single person we happened to pass. To finish off the night you awoke from a dead sleep having a complete fit due to a child crying on the TV. I was terrified, you were terrified and all I wanted was to give you a loving home when someone else had given up on you. 

I’m sorry it took me so long to realize what you were going through, I wish I had understood from the very beginning. I wish someone had told me that you were scared, that my anger wasn’t helping. I wish I had done better. I wish I didn’t waste months trying to figure out how to “fix” you when you were already so incredibly perfect. I wish I had seen you for the blessing you are right from the start, maybe you wouldn’t be as afraid now. Some days I still grieve the loss of a life I never had, I miss the imaginary trips I took with my fictional “perfect” dog. Most days I know this is better. 

Ashley-and-titan-2

I plan on spending every day of your life making you feel as safe and happy as I can, regardless of the cost. I know the world is a scary place, I find it terrifying as well, but please know I will always protect you. I will stand between you and the other dog, I will stand between you and all of your fears until we are ready to take a step closer. I promise.

Titan, this is my love letter to you, this is my love letter to rescue dog motherhood. I do love every single second of it, both the easy moments and incredibly challenging. There is nothing that makes me happier than waking up to your little paws on my chest as you get a good stretch, nothing makes me as feel as proud as being called a good dog mom and nothing breaks my heart like you feeling overwhelmed. I absolutely love your giant ears and when your lip gets stuck on your tooth, it is both the cutest and the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. 

You changed me, you changed my very core.

You have taught me to be understanding and patient, when to fight the battle and when to back down. You have proved that I was right about the importance of naps, there is nothing better after a long day of living than a nice long nap under the covers with your best friend. You have taught me to use my words instead of my hands, that love and compassion can do so much more than grabbing and yelling. I will never be able to thank you enough for forcing me to learn how to be something other than angry, to ignore the bad but always reward the good. 

I love you more than I have ever loved anything.

To me you will always be perfect, you will always be a blessing and you will always be my little Snuggle Butt. Thank you for existing. 

Love always, 

Your Crazy Dog Mom


Hands up if you are totally wiping the tears away! (I know I am - again)! Please support Ashley and Titan by following them on Instagram! You'll get to see much more pictures of the sweet little pooch and read about their story and progress! Ashley thank you once again for writing this honest letter and reminding us of what rescue dog motherhood is all about. 

Want to submit a letter of your own? Write a letter to your rescue dog and send it to luna@motherofrescues.com to be featured! 

All photographs featured in this blog post are the property of Ashley Nequest

A Love Letter to Rescue Dog Motherhood

love-letter

I dubbed this website a love letter to rescue dog motherhood and I meant every word of it.

Having a rescue dog, especially if they are reactive or have other issues stemming from their abusive past, is not always a walk in the park. Sometimes it’s really hard. There are sacrifices that we must make, hard work we must put in but at the end of the day, it’s all worth it. I have always wanted to highlight the hard days too, not just the good ones. It’s important for people to understand the work it takes, rehabilitating a dog that was abandoned by the world. But it’s also important to highlight WHY we do it.

I thought long and hard how to best celebrate rescue dog motherhood. I desperately wanted to include other dog moms as well. First I thought about doing interviews, but it felt too structured. And then I glanced at the title of this blog and it came to me. Letters. I want to feature letters from dog moms to their precious rescue dogs. I want to feature letters that represent WHY we do it and WHY it’s worth it. I want to give dog moms a platform where they can spill their hearts out. Where they can truly write down the truest words and dedicate them to their dogs.

Each month I will feature one amazing dog mom and her letter. You’ll have the chance to read the first letter in a couple of days and I am so excited! This project is so important to me and I can’t wait to honor the deep bond between a human and a dog by publishing these letters.

If you resonate with this message and would like to contribute a letter of your own, please send the letter dedicated to your rescue dog to luna@motherofrescues.com and we’ll discuss the publishing date together! I would love to feature your words on this platform and share it with other rescue dog moms!

Our dogs are our biggest teachers, cheerleaders, love bugs and friends. They deserve all of the recognition and our love for them may be misunderstood by those who have never loved a dog, but this community is bound by the unconditional love we have for our four-legged children and the hard work we are prepared to do with them, to help them thrive regarding their past abuse or negative experiences.

Thank you for being a part of this journey; I am looking forward to sharing your letters!

 

 

 

 

 

The Role of Purebred Dogs in a Rescue Dog Household

purebred-dogs-irish-setter

This blog is called Mother of Rescues and that’s exactly who I am; a mother of two precious rescues. Rescuing dogs and raising them with love and positive reinforcement is my mission in life. In that I am absolutely certain. My two rescues have taught me everything I know about force-free dog training, canine body language, resocialization, patience and overcoming challenges. Without them, this blog would not exist.

But what about purebred dogs? My household currently holds two purebred Irish Setters, in addition to my two rescues. I sometimes get asked what is my opinion on people buying dogs. Am I against it? Our second Setter (Ursha) has joined the family just a month ago and some were surprised that she isn’t a rescue. I’ve had this topic on my mind for a while, so today I wanted to share my thoughts on the role of purebred dogs in a household that frequently opens its doors to rescue dogs!

The importance of a happy childhood

I want to start with the most important topic that easily defines all living beings: childhood. Our childhood has a big impact on how we grow up, how we act in relationships, the choices we make in our lives. It’s same with our dogs. Their early childhoods determine them a lot! My two rescues, Bailey and Chilly, both had pretty shitty childhoods. One was crammed into a box with 4 other puppies and left in the woods to die. The other had to survive on the streets of Bosnia. Our precious angel Lady was owned by hunters until they disposed of her and she nearly starved to death.

Welcoming these dogs into our home and hearts has been the most rewarding experience but it has also been challenging at times. Creating a stable environment for them is my top priority. This is where our purebred dogs play a big role - especially Ruby.

She’s been in the family for 10 years, longer than any of the other dogs. We got her from the Trawricka breeders and she has always shown incredible mental stability. The past 10 years have been full of changes and she adapted to all of them without problems. Our home is always welcoming new animals and she has been so accepting of all of them. She has welcomed without a fuss a giant pet rabbit, Bailey, a guinea pig, another rabbit, a bird, Lady, three chickens, Chilly, another guinea pig and Ursha. That’s without even mentioning several friends, boyfriends, pet friends and other people or animals who have briefly crossed our home in different periods of life. Ruby is a total champ. 

Her stability has always influenced our rescues. When we bring a rescue into the home, Ruby is the first one to meet them. I believe she immediately makes them feel welcome.

Lady and Bailey, for example, had some anxiety around each other in their first weeks together. My sister and I needed to work on their relationship. But Lady and Ruby instantly became friends, because Ruby is so relaxed and couldn’t care less who we bring into the home. She accepts everyone!

Buying another Irish Setter was a no-brainer for my mom and so Ursha from IRWS Kennel Of The Ronnerfields has joined the family a month ago! It’s safe to say that she has had the best childhood in the world and watching her first 10 weeks of life over social media has been an absolute blessing.

irish-setter-border-collie

Training vs. Resocialization

Watching Ursha grow is sometimes a strange experience for me. She’s so normal! She’s a perfectly normal jolly little puppy who would happily bite your hair, nose, arms, legs and shoes if you let her. (She’s a little teething shark!). I remember Bailey at her age; she was a tiny ball of anxiety, showing so many phobias and reacting to everything with extreme fear. I didn’t even know where to start fixing her. Chilly and Lady came to us at later points in life, which sometimes left us wondering what horrors must have happened to them when they flinched in completely normal situations. After spending 5 years resocializing these precious pups and also the loss that we have experienced when Lady passed away in February … it feels like a breath of fresh air, raising Ursha. There is no heaviness or concern surrounding it. My mom gets to train her as a normal puppy, one that has always been happy and loved. There is no damage there that we would have to fix. She’s absolutely perfect. I’m emphasizing this so much precisely because we don’t intend to stop rescuing dogs - ever. They are our lifestyle now. Ursha already has two rescues in the same household and over the course of her life she will meet and love many more. It’s safe to say Ursha’s stability and jolly character will be a great asset in the next decade of our life.

Diversity in Friendship

It seems that in recent years it has became important again where somebody is coming from, what is their background and what history they’re bringing with them. My dogs have taught me so many lessons on acceptance and diversity. I look at them bonding together and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter where they come from. As a complete coincidence, all of our dogs are from a different country. Ruby is from Belgium, Bailey from Slovenia (where we live), Lady was from Croatia, Chilly is from Bosnia and Ursha is from the Netherlands. To them, none of this matters. To them it also doesn’t matter that Chilly was a dirty street dog but Ursha is a high-born princess. It doesn’t matter that Bailey is reactive but Ruby doesn’t even notice fireworks. They only see each other’s souls.

They don’t concern themselves with each other’s origin and I think that is one of the most beautiful lessons they could ever teach us. Deep down, at our core, we are all one.

I am thankful for our two purebred Irish Setters. I am thankful for all our rescues. I am thankful for the balance we have in our home. I know I will eventually move out of the family home and I am not ashamed to say that I will buy a dog when that happens. But I will also foster dogs and continue to rescue them. To me, rescuing dogs is about balance - also within the soul. It’s not always easy and at the end of the day you need to rely on somebody.

I can see my future as the mother of rescues and I can also see one or two purebred dogs as the anchor in that pack. I reject all criticism on this front and invite everyone who reads this article, but especially the rescue community, to approach this matter with love and understanding.

I know plenty of people who just rescue.

I know plenty of people who just buy.

I love that I get to live my life somewhere in between.


What is the structure of your canine household? Do you have rescues, purebred pups or both? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!

purebred-dogs-rescue-household

Pin this article to spread the word! 

 


 

 

 

Force-Free Training: The Only Way to Help Fearful Dogs

reactive-dog-force-free

Whether or not we should be raising our dogs with love, patience and kindness should not even be a debate - and yet, things still feel blurry and debatable to many. A big part of me is tired of talking about this but an even bigger part of me knows that I have a responsibility to dogs and even their owners who may not have realized the truth just yet. I recognize that every change is a slow process and it’s often not easy. I’ve decided to write about it because I want to share my own perspective and reflect on why I feel so deeply about this matter. But before I dive into my own personal reasons as to why I believe force-free training is the only way to help our fearful dogs, let’s go over some research-based facts.

Fact #1: Positive reinforcement (force-free) training is the only training method backed by science.

Fact #2: The pack theory has been disproven by the same guy who came up with it - and many others after that.

Fact #3: Shock collars have been proven to have negative effects on dogs to the point where manufacturers now have to label them as “not to be used on aggressive dogs.”  

If those three facts are not enough to sway you, I have a couple of more reasons of my own. Before I get into them, let me clarify what ISN’T positive reinforcement: choke/shock/prong collars, hitting the dog, kicking the dog, pressing the dog into the ground (“alpha roll”), starving the dog, yelling at the dog, grabbing the dog by the skin on their neck, yanking the dog’s leash and any other so-called training method or punishment that involves force or intimidation.

What IS force-free training: It’s a method of training that focuses on building up the dog’s confidence and bond with you. It focuses on setting your dog up for success. It uses tools such as food and play to teach the dogs wanted behaviors, rather than punishing unwanted ones. It builds a very clear and strong communication where the dog always knows what is expected of them and feels safe with you at all times.
I personally think that force-free training is the only way to help fearful dogs. Here’s why!

1. Our dogs are already afraid most of the time - why add to it?

Fearful dogs experience fear in completely normal situations. Reactive dogs often have explosive outbursts of barking when faced with that fear (or as we call it, trigger). These dogs spend a lot of their time experiencing some form of fear. They are very different from dogs who are able to just chill in the park or sleep wherever there’s room. They experience great anxiety in new environment and the places they consider safe are very few - sometimes none. It’s not easy living with a dog who is always afraid. We can’t control everything about our environment, so sometimes we’ll be faced with loud noises, off-leash dogs or screaming kids. And our dogs will experience severe fear and will likely have an outburst. If you are a parent of a reactive dog you know that after a barking outburst our precious dogs need some time to decompress. They often stay upset even after the trigger has gone away. I see my job as a guardian of such a dog mainly to FREE them from fear, rather than to add to it. I see no point in making my dog even more afraid than she already is. When I got Bailey, she was afraid of bikes, dogs, strollers, skates, children, old ladies etc. The last thing I would want is for her to be afraid of me, too. You want your dog to feel safe next to you. You want to work towards liberating them from their fears and you can’t achieve that if you are using aversive methods of training.

reactive-dog-love-compassion

2. A scared dog cannot be a confident dog

One thing that most dog owners lack is the basic knowledge of canine body language. I notice this all the time and I used to be like that too. After I’ve studied this topic into detail, I started understanding my Bailey much better and her progress skyrocketed. Dogs display fear and discomfort in many different ways. They turn their head to the side, they lick their lips, they yawn, they pull back their ears. All of that, before any of the growling or barking even happens. A lot of the time I will see dogs that were “cured” of reactivity by shock collars or other aversive methods of training. These poor dogs are walking with their tails between their legs, their ears pulled back, constantly turning their head to the side. It’s convenient for their owners, of course, because their dogs aren’t barking anymore - but those dogs are still afraid! In fact, they might be afraid even more than before. Not only are they still afraid of dogs (or other triggers), they are also afraid of the discomfort that will follow if they express that fear. I urge you to look at what your dog’s body language is saying and adjust your training methods accordingly. Start HERE.

3. You want to represent safety - not pain!

Most of reactive and fearful dogs have a big problem with safe spaces. They simply don’t have them.  It takes a lot of time for the owner to create those spaces for them, spaces where they feel absolutely safe and comfortable. Spaces where they don’t get upset by triggers. It could be a crate or a bed or a room. But it takes time for them to get used to it, fully accept it and relax within. Most of them prefer small and dark spaces (den-like spaces), which are sometimes hard to come by. Safe spaces can also relate to humans and other animals. You’ll notice that your fearful pooch really trusts some people; they fall asleep next to them or allow cuddles. But with other people, however many times they’ve seen them, they continue being wary and distant. You, as their owner, must represent a safe space for them. Force-free training is a first step into that direction. You need your dog to trust you. You need them to feel secure with you. When they are faced with a trigger, they should look to you for guidance. They won’t ever do that if they connect you with something unpleasant - be it a raised voice, a jolt of pain, a physical discomfort. Create a safe space for your dog by first and foremost BEING that space!

4. Pain and fear will damage your bond

Raising someone with love and kindness manifests an incredible bond. Raising them with fear and punishment manifests a lot of confusion, repression and miscommunication - which results in keep having to use those negative tools and punishments to “keep the peace.”

I’ll be honest with you. As a kid, I was no stranger to physical punishment and intimidation. It was a constant thing in my childhood and if there is an equivalent to shock collars for humans, I’ve likely experienced it. The people in my life perceived all of that as normal (some deemed it unnecessary but “didn’t want to tell someone how to raise their children”). It was never frowned upon, never talked about as problematic, never brought up as something that might have negative consequences. It has deeply affected my bond with both parents; one of whom I don’t speak to anymore. I am still close with the other parent and I recognize that it wasn’t her fault but in some way the relationship will always be tinted. This is what fearful upbringing does. It creates an environment where every day you are trying to AVOID being punished - you don’t know what is expected of you because nobody ever told you. You are confused. Your behaviors are centered around avoiding the punishment and not around creating actual constructive behaviors. It is same with our dogs. They are smart and if you hurt them, they will do what they can to avoid being punished. That doesn’t mean their behaviors will be constructive - if anything, they will just be full of anxiety and your bond with the dog will suffer severely. 

Do you truly want that? Do you want a dog that is always confused and anxious? Or would you rather have a dog that feels safe next to you? A dog that you can have amazing communication with, a dog that makes you a better human, a dog that you can always rely on because they, too, trust you unconditionally?
The choice is yours.
Make it from the heart.

 


force-free-training

Please share this on Pinterest to raise awareness! <3 

 

 

 

Fearful Dogs and the Power of Music

Music; one of the most important things in my universe. I listen to music almost all the time and I truly believe it is the language of my soul. Music has gotten me through every single hardship I have ever experienced and aside from writing it is my favorite form of art.

When we talk of rehabilitating, helping and training fearful dogs, we often talk about counter-conditioning, mental enrichment, environment managing and all these other techniques that are without a doubt super important, but I have noticed something has been missing. What happens when we’re not training? When, for whatever reason, we just don’t have that bag of treats ready or maybe it’s the middle of the night but our dog is experiencing severe anxiety? What do we do? I fully believe that music can play a great role in helping our reactive dogs.

For one, by default, these dogs are very sensitive to sound. They can react to a can falling on the floor three rooms away. They can be afraid of a person sneezing outside the house. There is no sound that escapes them and every sound makes them alert. I think it can be a very positive experience for them if we utilize their alertness to sound in a good way. First, music will somewhat cover up outside noises. Second, it may just calm them down in a way you didn’t even think was possible!

5 years ago I adopted Bailey and on the drive home she was crying as I was holding her in my arms. I quietly sang Hey Jude to her, because it’s the song that always calms me down when I’m experiencing anxiety. When we came home the poor bug was so terrified she refused to fall asleep - and her lack of sleep was a big problem in our first few weeks. I put on The Beatles’ vinyl record in the evening and any time I left her alone. I quickly started noticing she’s responding to it really well. In fact, she fell asleep much quicker than if the record wasn’t playing. This is how Bailey’s love of music was born.

Ever since then, we’ve been using music to soothe her anxiety. We spend every New Year’s Eve listening to music and as soon as I turn it on I can feel her fear and nervousness gradually diminish. Our favorite picks for surviving the fireworks are Ed Sheeran’s first album and any ballad Elvis Presley has ever written.

I wish I could lend her my headphones when we go for walks. Maybe if she could listen to James Vincent McMorrow as she is strolling around our neighborhood with me, she wouldn’t experience such anxiety. But I don’t want to shoot for the moon - I’m happy that music can be a calming tool for us when we are at home, or in the car.

I think if music can touch a human’s soul in a way that lets us know everything will be alright, why couldn’t it do the same for our dogs?

Bailey has a favorite song. The one song that I can always count on to calm her down. This song is also my favorite song in the universe and I wonder if there is some correlation. Maybe my Bailey can feel my soul relax when I am listening to it? Maybe this experience alone feels soothing for her? Sometimes I wish I could ask her these questions. Until that happens, all I can do is observe my little bug how she is nervous because of some weird sound outside and then the second I put on the song she curls up into a ball inside her crate and falls asleep, knowing she is always safe. The song I am talking about is Something New. Listening to it is a cosmic experience.

If you have a reactive and fearful dog I would recommend you try playing some songs to them and see how they respond. I’d start with calming songs and then try out different styles, depending on how they are responding. You can also try playing them your own favorite songs and see if they have the same connection to them as you do (or maybe just feel your love for it)!

To help you out a little bit, I created a playlist of 10 songs for calming down fearful dogs! We’ve listened to all of them a countless times and they have all worked like magic for little B. Click on the titles to listen to them on YouTube!
  1. James Vincent McMorrow - Wicked Game

  2. Tokio Hotel - Something New

  3. Tokio Hotel - Run Run Run

  4. Elvis Presley - Can’t Help Falling In Love With You

  5. Elvis Presley - Love Me Tender

  6. Jamie Dee - Blood Bank

  7. Bon Iver - Holocene

  8. Meadowlark - Postcards

  9. Ed Sheeran - The A Team

  10. Coldplay - Green Eyes

How do your fearful dogs respond to music? Do you have any song recommendations or experience you’d like to share? Comment below!

Loved the article? Share it on Pinterest! 

How to Help a Dog Stung by Nettle

stung-by-nettle

When I was a kid, I fell into nettles many, many times. It always happened when I was on vacation at my grandparents’ house. They have a farm and plenty of meadows to run on. I would play with their dogs and somehow ended up in nettles every single time. I remember the burning sensation on my legs and the little itchy bumps that appeared afterwards. I never considered that dogs could get affected by this too, I just assumed it’s something that stings only humans. I learned my lesson when Bailey chased a ball right into a big bush of nettles and for the next couple of hours all hell broke loose.

Bailey has a crazy prey drive. We keep on working on self-control and I can honestly say she’s come so far. But the fact of the matter is, when that ball is in the air, she’ll chase it into a bottomless pit if she has to. It’s always my responsibility to make sure the ball doesn’t fall anywhere dangerous. She is no stranger to searching for the ball in the bushes so I didn’t think much of it when I saw the ball land in some big bushes in our back yard. She went into them head-first and then stopped abruptly and jumped out. She started running around like crazy and I could tell she was in pain - but nonetheless that crazy turkey had a ball in her mouth! That’s how crazy her instinct is!

I called her to me and it took two or three calls for her to even hear me. When she finally ran towards me she dropped to the floor, dropped the ball and started rubbing her nose with her paws, rubbing it against the grass and whimpering. I took her in my arms and went to check the bushes. We have some hedgehogs living in the yard and a frog. I also thought it might have been a bee. But as soon as I saw nettle it clicked in my head.

I took her inside and had to set her on the floor to do what any sensible dog mom would do in a crisis: google the symptoms and diagnose my dog based on what the online forums have to say.

Lucky for me, this time the prognosis wasn’t too bad. A lot of people have had this happen to their dogs and most of them just said it’s about soothing the pain that will last a couple of hours.

If the pain doesn’t go away or the dog has any additional symptoms you should go to the vet!
green-nettle-stinging

Bailey still being pretty hysterical, I washed her snout and ears with a cloth drenched in cold water, then somehow managed to get her to her crate where she feels safe. As soon as she was inside she stopped freaking out and was just whimpering. The hardest thing is when you lock eyes with your furry little soulmate and you can tell they’re hurting but you don’t truly know what to do. I took some coconut oil and put it all over her snout and ears (the ears were red but had no bumps). Since little B is an avid lover of coconut oil she spent the next 15 minutes trying to lick it all off. Needless to say, she was successful and it made the situation worse because she was scratching herself really hard. Chilly has had some skin irritation issues and I use 100% aloe gel to help him - so I immediately thought of that. I put the aloe gel on the affected areas, closed the crate and after about 30 minutes of whimpering she finally fell asleep. I think she was super tired not only from the game in the yard but also from the pain and the hysterical running because of it. I monitored her closely (read: I obsessively checked on her every five minutes making sure she is still breathing) and when she woke up some hours later she was just fine!

I wanted to share this experience because I honestly had no idea that nettle could sting dogs and after reading some more information online, it seems that it mostly affects dogs with short hair (or no hair) and the areas where the skin is really thin (ears, snout, legs, stomach).

Hopefully this raises some awareness and you can make sure that your pooch doesn’t have the same painful experience - or of they do, it’s good to have aloe gel on hand! It would mean so much to me if you shared this article with your fellow dog moms because prevention is always key!

Have you ever had any experience with your dog being stung by nettle? How did you help them deal with the pain? Comment below so we can all learn from each other!
dogs-and-nettle

Pin this article for other dog moms to see! 

Things I Am Afraid to Tell You: Rescue Dog Mom Edition

The internet is full of people pretending their lives are perfect. Social media will have you believe that every day starts with a pink frappuccino and ends with a perfectly lit selfie. The blogging world is perhaps even worse. The talk about followers, subscribers, Instagram algorithms and “shadowbans” is neverending. Everyone seems to have a social media strategy in place, a narrow niche, a carefully curated online personality.

To say that I do not fit into that would be an understatement.

I can’t take my dogs to a coffee shop for that damn pink frappuccino because one is reactive and one hates crowded spaces (working on it!). I don’t like taking selfies and when I do, they have a really shitty lighting. I don’t have a social media strategy other than “spill your heart out on Instagram to contrast all of the strategic captions and hashtags.” I don’t abide the rules of having a narrow niche (anymore) and my online personality is very transparent.

I was recently inspired by Jenna Kutcher’s podcast where she talked about her fears. It felt so refreshing. She runs such a successful online business but she wasn’t afraid to bare her soul and tell us how it really is. She inspired me to write this post and I quietly hope this trend continues on. If anyone feels encouraged to write about the things that scare them, please feel free to do so and make sure to send me the link! Let’s create a transparent community where, despite our social media followers and number of subscribers, we admit to each other that we are all just people.

Here are my very own 5 things I am afraid to tell you: rescue dog mom edition. Writing this was therapeutic but posting it feels scary, too.

1. I still see my dogs as “broken” sometimes

They tell you not to do that. Hell, I’ll tell you not to do that! “Don’t treat them like they’re broken. Don’t think of their past too much. Don’t feel sorry for them, it will affect your training. Give them a chance to be normal.” We’ve all heard it. And I try my best, but sometimes I look at Chilly and all I can think of is how he was alone on the street in the first months of his life. He still flinches if you move your arms too fast and is still wary of strangers. It takes everything in me not to worry about what must have happened to him. I know my dogs are loved beyond compare and are being raised with love, but sometimes their lack of early socialization is still an issue - on those days, it’s hard to see them as whole.

2. I'm not always confident in my training

I am good at dog training - I know I am. At this point I have a lot of experience with dogs but even so, I don’t always know how to approach an issue. Since I’ve mentioned Chilly’s fear of crowded places - it took me a long time to come up with a training plan that requires gradual exposure without overwhelming him. We went out and tested what works for us, made some mistakes along the way and continue to learn as we go. At first I felt like I have no idea where to begin helping him and how to plan the training sessions. All of my knowledge and all of my experience and sometimes I still feel so very uncertain. 

3. People’s negative comments really affect me

I know you’re not supposed to take people’s opinions to heart, but I do. Luckily, so far I haven’t gotten any hate online except once, but I do get a lot of snarky comments regarding my training methods in my private life. These comments affect me so much. I am often seen as an obsessive dog mom who is way too strict. “Why won’t you let them off the lead? Why aren’t they allowed to get food from the table? Why are they crate trained? I didn’t crate train any of my dogs and I’ve had dogs for 20 years. Why did you leave your dog at home today? How will they socialize if you don’t take them with you? Once I have a dog of my own I’m not going to be as obsessive about training as you are. This is too much.” These are actual sentences said to me by actual people in my life. And on and on it goes.

You’d think I’m a monster who keeps my dogs on a lockdown! But here’s the reality: I rescue dogs with heavy stories. I speak dog body language fluently. I have a (force-free) system when training my dogs that turns them into happy, confident dogs. I understand they are animals with strong instincts and I strive to satisfy those instincts. We spend a lot of quality time together, but they also know how to rest. I understand the responsibility of owning a dog, I understand I must ensure their safety and the safety of those they come in contact with - which is why I require their recall to be 100% and until it is, they are not let off the lead. I don’t “socialize” them with unstable dogs who don’t respond to their owners. We go on adventures together and I always make sure they feel safe. I understand that resocialization takes time. I do all this work and we have immense progress and I am so proud of us. But people still misunderstand. And it does hurt.

4. Bailey often triggers my anxiety

When Bailey is having a hard time, it triggers my anxiety. I can relate to her a lot because I am also a hypersensitive anxious soul, so I understand why the world feels scary for her sometimes. I understand why she loves quiet places. I understand why socializing wears her out. And yet, sometimes I still wish for her to just be normal. I don’t always know where Bailey’s anxiety ends and mine begins. A part of me knows that the best way to help her is to be calm. Another part of me breaks when she is having a hard time. I love my sweet girl with the whole of my heart but when she is in pain, scared, or upset, my world stops spinning for a bit. I want to put everything else on hold just to help her and make sure she is okay. My heart is racing, my breath escapes me. In those moments, I know I need to trust us. Trust myself, that I have trained her well enough to be able to cope with a situation. Trust her, that she has it in her. I also need to learn that it’s okay if she feels discomfort sometimes; she has to work through it and my job is to be there for her, to stay calm and offer stability. The more I work on myself, the better she is too! 

5. Balancing two dogs has been a challenge

One is one, two is twenty and I don’t know what three will one day be. I love having two dogs. They have been one of the biggest blessings in my life. They have this amazing yin and yang dynamic going on. They’re 3 years apart in age but I swear they could be twins. Though in some aspects of their personalities, they are day and night. Chilly is calm, sociable, independent and always up for shenanigans. Bailey is hyperactive, has a huge prey drive, doesn’t like socializing but loves the physical presence of her human (me!). On the days that I know I’ve fulfilled all of Chilly’s border collie needs I find myself wondering if I’ve done the same for Bailey - and the other way around. When I’m focusing on Bailey my mind wonders if I’m doing right by Chilly too. They spend much of their day together, but they also have a lot of separate training sessions and activities. Chilly’s into frisbee and Bailey’s into chasing balls. Chilly loves taking walks around our neighborhood and for Bailey they are often overwhelming. It’s not always easy to balance the both of them, but it’s worth it - even on the days when I wonder if one of them is feeling left out.


These were mine unspoken secrets that are now forever a part of this blog and shared with this community. Being a dog mom is my favorite thing in the world and definitely my purpose on planet Earth. I know I’m good at it, because my entire heart is in it. But I also know that I am not perfect - thankfully, nobody is! ;)

Share this article on Pinterest! 

10 Summer Treats You Can Share with Your Dog

Anyone that knows me well knows that food is like a religion to me! I love creating in the kitchen, I prefer homemade meals to eating out and I definitely love to treat my pups to some healthy treats sometimes! A while ago I came across a recipe for dog treats and the first thing I thought was “Hey, I’d want to eat that too!” So I figured, why don’t I make a roundup of the best dog treat recipes that you and your pooch can totally share! I reached out to my fellow bloggers and this post was born!

During the summer I’ll be testing some of these recipes out and might even share the ups and the downs on our Instagram! Are you following us @motherofrescues yet?!

Now without further ado, here are the best top 10 summer treats that you can share with your dog!

share-treats-recipes-summer

1. Homemade Peanut Butter Banana Treats

Is there anything better than the combination of bananas and peanut butter? No, there isn’t! My Chilly is obsessed with bananas and all three of us love peanut butter so these treats are totally going to be on our must-try list! Thank you Barking Storm for the recipe!

2. Homemade Energy bars

You Did What With Your Weiner is one of my favorite dog blogs out there and this recipe makes it even better! I have a mild obsession with energy bars and when I was in college I made them myself a lot! I haven’t made any in forever, but these are giving me some major cravings! Considering the fact I have two VERY high-energetic dogs, I might not want to share these with them! ;)

3. Peanut Butter and Apple Sauce Cookies

The rights for this yummy picture are with The Lazy Pitbull!

The rights for this yummy picture are with The Lazy Pitbull!

Bailey will love these, I can already tell! She is obsessed with apples and whenever I’m eating one I don’t have any personal space anymore. Visit The Lazy Pitbull if you want the recipe (and a lot of other super useful resources for dog moms!).

4. Frozen Berry Yoghurt Bites

If your pooch tolerates dairy, yoghurt bites are an amazing treat to share! Who doesn’t love frozen berries on a hot summer day?! My Bailey won’t be able to try these because she’s a bit sensitive to dairy but I’m pretty sure Chilly will be happy to eat them all himself! We’re so thankful to Five Sibes for the recipe!

5. Sweet Potato Fries

Confession #1: I eat french fries literally every week.

Confession #2: I’ve never tried sweet potatoes! They aren’t as popular here in Slovenia as they are in the US, so I’ve never had them before - and neither have my pups! Thankfully I do know where I can buy them and I think this recipe by Beagles & Bargains is a sign that my pups and I should try something new!

6. Doggie Cupcakes

This tasty picture belongs to Dog Mom Days!

This tasty picture belongs to Dog Mom Days!

Since I am gluten intolerant (boo!), only my puppies will get to enjoy these - and maybe the other family members! I’m not even an avid cupcake maker but this recipe by Dog Mom Days looks too delicious to ignore! When’s the next special occasion coming along? I might turn into a cupcake maker for a day!

7. Pumpkin Dog Treats

When fall rolls into town, pumpkins are the greatest hit! My dogs have never tried them (because the chickens get all the leftovers, haha) but Hiking with Hendrix has a super simple recipe for pumpkin dog treats and maybe once pumpkins are back in season (canned pumpkin puree is not a thing over here), I may surprise my dogs with them!

8. Veggie Bites

You have no idea how obsessed we are with vegetables. First, I’m vegetarian and I hate to sound like a stereotype but I do love vegetables more than life itself, haha! Second, my dogs are big on veggies too! Carrots, broccoli, beans, you name it! Pawbellish has an incredible recipe for veggie bites that only have three ingredients and you can bet we’ll be munching on them on the days momma’s feeling lazy!

9. Dog Ice Cream

That awkward moment when you’re writing about summer treats and almost forget about ice cream! Homemade banana ice cream is one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast, but my “bad dog mom” confession is that I never share it with the dogs - mostly because they’re eating their own breakfast at the same time! Here’s a great recipe by Life With Mutts that you should definitely share with your dogs!  

10. Anti-Inflammatory Biscuits

This photo - and the handsome pooch - belongs to Proud Dog Mom!

This photo - and the handsome pooch - belongs to Proud Dog Mom!

If you have a dog with a very sensitive stomach (Bailey alert!), you know that introducing them to new foods and homemade treats can be a bit of a challenge. We always take it super slow. I love these simple biscuits from Proud Dog Mom because they truly only have anti-inflammatory ingredients - turmeric among them too! We’ll try these for sure and let you know how they worked out for us!

Which of these recipes is your favorite?! Let me know!

And huge thanks to all dog moms who were kind enough to share these recipes with us!

You rock!

Loved the recipes? Share them on Pinterest! 

 

 

A New Beginning

new-begininning

Hello my darling rescue dog moms,

I am so happy to be back amongst you. Some of you have known me from my previous blog and some of you may have just found me. Either way, I am so overjoyed that you are here.

Being a mom to a rescue dog (or more than one!) is a tough job sometimes. They often come to us with a story we don’t know much about - only that it wasn’t happy. They come to us with challenges, lessons and insights. But they also come with unconditional love. They come with cosmic understanding of our soul and we find ourselves wondering are we really the ones who rescued them or is it the other way around?

I want this blog to be a love letter to rescue dog motherhood. I will not shy away from the hard topics but you can bet that I will also celebrate the abundance of amazing moments that we share! This life is one of ups and downs and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

I have migrated some of my favorite old posts from the previous blog because I felt that they still resonate with this blog’s message. 

1. An amazing guest post about early socialization, written by my friend Danielle

2. A very raw post about Bailey's co-dependency

3. A celebration of Bailey and mine's journey

4. A video of our last summer adventures. This one is so special to me because it has Lady in it. Lady left us a few months ago due to a tumor but I can promise you she will always have a place on this blog. ❤

I can’t wait to share our stories and journey with you and maybe get to be a part of yours, too.

With much love,

Luna C. Lupus

 

Guest Post: What Does “Socialization” Really Mean?

I teamed up with my friend (and fellow Border Collie owner!) Danielle Lindblom from The Adventure Dog Blog to bring you this amazing, information-packed blog post about socialization! I know this is a topic that interest a lot of you and I'm so happy Danielle can teach you about it! If you want to learn from her directly, make sure to check out her epic Adventure Puppy Club!

This blog post was written in its entirety by Danielle Lindblom and all of the photographs used belong to her! 

River-2.jpg

Bringing home a puppy? You’ll probably be inundated with messages about socialization and how critical it is for your new puppy. The internet will tell you, your vet will tell you, your dog trainer will tell you: you need to socialize your puppy…OR ELSE! It can be incredibly confusing, overwhelming, and there can be a lot of pressure on the new puppy parent. After all, you don’t want to ruin your new blank slate puppy, do you?

With all this pressure to socialize puppies, and a short window in which to do it, people can sometimes rush out into the world, with good in their hearts, and inadvertently create long-lasting behavior problems. Of course, the opposite is also true. Lack of socialization is almost certain to create life-long behavior issues that take years to resolve. It seems pretty dire; socialize, but do it RIGHT. I’m going to break this down for you and show you that it can be fun and easy to properly socialize your puppy. Take a deep breath!

Here’s what it comes down to: puppies need to have new or novel experiences during their critical period of development (8 – 12 weeks) and continued socialization until 16 weeks. Ideally, it doesn’t stop there, either.

Now, that does not read “puppies need to play with a ton of other dogs and meet 9000 new people,” which is often how “socialization” is interpreted. That’s where things can go horribly wrong. Nope, it simply means “new experiences.” Let’s get into more detail.

During their critical period (8 – 12 weeks), puppies’ brains are forming new connections as they navigate the world. They are learning survival instincts and what is a threat versus what is good. By having many different novel experiences, their brain will make many new connections. We need to ensure those experiences are positive so that the long-term associations with people, dogs, places, and things are also positive and we do not have a fearful dog later in life.

So, what SHOULD you do with your puppy during those first few weeks?

  • Go places! Go to a new place every day if you can. That could be the front yard, the back yard, the neighbor’s house, the street corner, the post office, a pet store, the vet’s office, upstairs, downstairs, the basement, downtown, to a park (NOT a dog park), anywhere you can think of that your puppy has not been to before. Ideally, make sure to include all of the places your puppy will need to visit for the duration of his life. I travel a lot, so I made sure to include a tent for camping, a hotel lobby, lots of car rides, and different family members’ houses in my puppy’s first few weeks with me.

 

  • Touch stuff! Have your puppy experience different surfaces. Walk on concrete, stairs, carpet, linoleum, wood, boardwalks, sidewalks, the roadway, rocks, gravel, sand, and anything else you can think of. Again, form strong positive associations with exploration. You want a confident puppy who isn’t afraid to go somewhere new and walk on a new surface. 

 

  • Meet dogs! Here’s where things can go horribly wrong. If you throw your puppy into a mob of other puppies, are you creating a positive learning experience for her? Probably not. If you carefully select a wonderful adult dog with great body language and manners, I can confidently say that dog will teach your puppy good things. Yes, your puppy should meet dogs of different sizes, coat types, and appearances to be well-rounded, but you do not need to “go say hi” to every dog you see or make it your goal to expose your puppy to 100 different dogs. A few different good dogs will make a long-lasting excellent impression on your puppy’s behavior. Always think about the lessons you want your puppy to learn and select a dog that will provide that. Have a rowdy puppy that needs to be taken down a notch or two? Pair him with an older, adult female. She won’t tolerate his nonsense and will correct him in a natural, effective way. Have a shy puppy that you’d like to have better confidence? Pair her with a mellow gentleman dog who will coax her to play and come out of her shell. 

 

  • Meet people! All different types of people wearing all different types of clothing. Also, people connected to bicycles, skateboards, or wheelchairs.  Again, make sure encounters are positive and, most importantly, give your puppy a choice on whether she wants to greet the person or not. Forcing your puppy to have interactions when she is unsure is a recipe for disaster. Go at your puppy’s pace.
Hopefully this “puppy primer” has helped youmake some plans on how to socialize your puppy. Have fun with it! Make every experience a fun one, and you’ll not only see a well-adjusted puppy, but you’ll also be forming an incredible bond with your new dog.

Adventure On!

Danielle Lindblom

Danielle is a blogger and dog trainer residing in Minnesota, USA. She and her two Border Collies – Mica and River – explore the great outdoors, travel, and seek adventure. You can find out more by visiting her website, Facebook page, or follow her on Instagram.

socialize-puppy

If you liked this post, please share it on your social channels and pin it to Pinterest! 

Life With a Co-Dependent Dog

My Bailey is a co-dependent dog. She's been highly fearful and reactive since the day she came to me. Maybe it's because of the way she was brought into this world, maybe it's because of bad genetics and prenatal care of the mother or maybe it's a combination of both - but she has never ever had a fundamental feeling of safety.

For Bailey, the whole world is a scary place.

Normal, every day things give her huge anxiety. Dogs, humans, skates, shopping bags, umbrellas, birds landing on the window sill, kids, a sound of a random item falling on the floor, a sound of someone walking in the house wearing shoes, fireworks etc. The list goes on and on as we keep finding new things and situations she's afraid of. Every single one of them is a project for us - we slowly start counter-conditioning and desensitizing her to these situations. Some of them we've been able to conquer, some just manage.

Through this process, we've been trying to find places where she completely relaxes and feels 100% safe. This is what we've come up with:

- In our bed, under the covers (!)

- Her doggy bed

- My lap

It's not much, but for us it's everything. She'll never be one of those dogs that just plop themselves on the floor or a blanket and fall asleep no matter where they are. (Chilly is like that and it has been the biggest blessing, haha!). She doesn't relax in any other bed, she doesn't like other mats to lie on, she doesn't relax with any other human, either. The fact that I represent a feeling of safety for her makes me very happy, because we've worked on that very hard. But I am just one person and also a human being who sometimes needs her physical space.

IMG_6336-e1477412859802.jpg

 

Sometimes it's a challenge, always having to think about how Bailey will deal with new environments, new people, bigger life changes.

I work from home and sometimes I don't stay in one room all day. That minimal change alone throws Bailey of course. If it was up to her, she would stay in one room all day long. In her four years with me, she has slowly learned how to relax eventually - it takes a lot of time and she needs very clear communication on my part, but we manage. She has also learned how to love adventures. I call her 

Bailey the explorer.

If we're on a hike and we don't meet too many people and dogs, she'll be pretty curious about her surroundings. And yet, if we stop for a little break, she'll immediately fall back into her restlessness - unless she has my full and undivided attention. Eye-contact and all. 

It's a double edged sword; while I'm happy that she feels safe with me, I can't really be hands-on in every single situation.

What does me being hands-off mean? Say we're out on a walk and I start talking to a neighbor or a stranger. She'll sit and look at me and silently whimper. Then she'll start frantically looking around and god forbid anything or anyone passes by, because she'll fall into her barking routine. When I am hands-on, things are a little different. I'm reinforcing her sit and if I sense that someone is making her nervous, I'll make eye contact and reinforce. She's still nervous, pretty much, but she demonstrates a lot of impulse control because I'm telling her exactly what to do.

When we're alone, it works. When we're not, it's a lottery.

reactive-dog
The reason why I'm writing this blog post is transparency. I'm a huge advocate for keeping it real and telling the truth. This is my truth: every dog is unique and sometimes you adopt a soul who you love more than the universe itself but life with them can be a challenge.

Sometimes Bailey's anxieties really affect and exhaust me. Sometimes I want some physical space, but I give into Bailey sitting on my lap or lying tight next to me, breathing into me, because she's finally resting after a whole day of being nervous over trivial things. Sometimes I wish for her to be normal. Sometimes I spend hours deciding whether I'll take her someplace new with me or is it too triggering for her. Sometimes I feel misunderstood by my friends and family who think I should be tougher on her. Sometimes I worry about what would happen to Bailey if something happens to me. I'm sure my family would step up, but Bailey attaches to one human and places into them the only feeling of safety she's capable of having.

For her, the whole world is a dangerous place. But within that world, she has found an anchor.

IMG_3998.jpg

An anchor that she can rely on, that encourages her in new situations and around new people, that handles every situation and always ensures her safety. I am that anchor. No matter the situation, my priority is to always make sure she feels as safe as possible. I think she appreciates that. I've trained her that every time something triggers her, instead of hysterically reacting to it (either by barking or running away), she looks to me instead and I'll tell her what to do. (Mostly it's either sit or heel but it always involves eye-contact).

It works for us. I'm proud of her. I'm proud of myself!

But sometimes this strategy leads to some very co-dependent moments on her part and those are pretty tiring for me.

It's a work in progress.

I try my best to help her be more self-sufficient. I don't let her follow me around the house. If I work long hours, I put her to sleep in our room. I encourage her to sleep on her mat when she is with me in my home office.

She gets a lot of mental and physical exercise.

I let her seek safe space with Chilly when she needs to. I ease her into new situations and we always take things step-by-step. It's a lot of work and a lot of management. But she teaches me how to be patient and how to communicate better.

She teaches me how to tune into her without completely losing myself. She teaches me the art of letting go, the art of waiting and above all, the art of loving unconditionally, even on our worst days.

I know this isn't a blog post full of useful tips. Instead, it's a blog post that doesn't glorify having a rescue and doesn't lie to you that positive reinforcement isn't a lot work. Of course it is.

In my opinion, it's the most gratifying work I have ever done and will continue to do for the rest of my life.

All thanks to my co-dependent bug Bailey! Funny how life always gives you exactly what you need, huh?

Tell me, in what ways do you ensure your dog's self sufficiency? Do you have a co-dependent dog as well? How are you handling it? Let's learn from each other and expand our horizons! 

codependent-dog-graphic-pin

Share this on Pinterest for other rescue dog moms to see! 

Summertime Training

DSC_9500.jpg

We've finally said goodbye to summer! Chilly joined our pack in early spring, so we've spent most of our summer consistently training!

One of my favorite things about our pack of rescues is that we get to go on adventures together and they get to learn from one another.

They are such a dynamic trio, I absolutely adore them! I put together a little video of one of our summery training sessions! It features Bailey, Chilly, Lady and my amazing sister Gloria! We had such a fun day and I'm so glad I had my camera with me! They are my sweet lovings! Enjoy the video down below:

 

Tell me how you like this video and if you want to see more of them! I'd also love to know how you spent your summer with your dogs! Adventuring? Training? I want to know! ;) 

4 Years of Adventures

DSC_9128.jpg

4 years ago, my life changed upside down. I rescued my first puppy and she changed me as a soul. The amount of love and happiness she has brought into my life goes beyond words. She taught me everything I know about dogs, positive reinforcement, patience and love. My darling Bailey, happy adoptaversary!

My mother has 4 children and I am the oldest one. She said to me once: "I love all of my children equally, but it was you who made me a mother." Back then, I didn't fully understand what she meant, but I do now. Because it wasn't until I adopted Chilly that I fully grasped the power of a first (furry) child.

They make you a parent. They shape you as a parent. When I adopted Bailey 4 years ago, I was so insecure and in over my head. I was not ready for her fears and traumas. I was not ready to set boundaries. As it turns out, she was exactly what I needed.

She taught me everything I know about dogs. About the power of patience and communication. About the healing power of love.

When Chilly came to me 3 months ago, I noticed how confident I am. How consistent, patient, assertive. It was Bailey who made me this way. She made me a good dog parent, she gave me the opportunity to grow through her, not only as her human parent, but also as a soul.

She's always had a way of mirroring me. She shows me my weaknesses and my strengths. She brings out the best in me, but also makes me aware of my own anxiety. She makes me want to work for things in life - because if she worked so hard on her fears, so can I. She makes me gentle and soft. Life has a tendency to make you cold sometimes, but she makes all of that disappear. With her, there is always just warmth.

IMG_8400-e1468157426702.jpg

My sweet girl.

My very first baby.

My ultimate soulmate and partner in crime.

Happy 4th anniversary, little B.

You are my life's best part.

rescue-dog-life

Share our story on Pinterest!