You may have read my earlier blog posts about the puppy “Zulu” (now known as Cayenne), who joined our family in 2008. Cayenne turned four years old on June 17th, at least that’s our best guess. The youngest dog here, she occupies the bottom of our small pack. She’s the blond dog in the middle in the photo.
Jenny, Chase, Cayenne, and Bandit (Photo by L.S. Originals of Fridley, Minnesota)
Cay has come a very long way since I first heard about her litter four years ago. When I checked the Australian Cattle Dog Rescue, Inc. (ACDRI) hotline messages in July of 2007, I heard a message from a woman in Tennessee. Debbie Foster (an appropriate name!) of the Henderson County Humane Society was caring for a litter of seven very young puppies that had been rescued from the wilderness. They had apparently been dumped, with no mama dog around, and had been found by a local man, a recluse who had taken them to Debbie. She nursed the pups through an almost fatal bout of coccidia and contacted ACDRI for help finding them homes because she thought they were Australian Cattle Dog mixes.
I learned that Debbie and her family were the Henderson County Humane Society, doing as much as they could with very little. When ACDRI was unwilling to help, I worked with Debbie to find safe places for the puppies. One pup was adopted in Tennessee. In the fall of 2007, three went to Sue Cameron-Day of Meet the Pack ACD Rescue in Ontario and three of them came to Homeward Bound Rescue here in Minnesota. I thought my job was done. Little did I know that one of those puppies was going to choose me!
I followed the pups’ progress from afar. Months later, Katie of Homeward Bound asked me if I would foster “Zulu”. She was being fostered with a group of other dogs and was so intimidated at adoption events that it was hard to find her a home. She needed more human interaction and one-on-one time with a person. I had two dogs already and was very hesitant about bringing home another dog. I eventually agreed to foster Zulu if she got along with my other dogs. My schedule wouldn’t allow me to take her to all the adoption events, but Katie wasn’t concerned about that.
Puppy “Zulu”, a.k.a. Cayenne (photo courtesy of Debbie Foster)
When I first brought Zulu home in April of 2008, two of us had to pry her from the back of the travel crate. She had been swimming in a pond at the foster home and had probably peed on herself during the car ride. Poor girl; she was a mess. She smelled so awful that I had to give her a bath before she could live in my house. She wasn’t comfortable with me or the bathtub, but she gradually began to relax with my gentle massage and kind words.
I quickly realized that Zulu got along with other dogs, but wasn’t comfortable with people. She hadn’t had a bad experience with people—she seemed to have had almost no experience with people. She must have spent a lot of time huddled in the back of a crate. Her feet splayed like stars, indicating that she had spent most of her time hiding and hadn’t gotten enough exercise. She wobbled on an under-developed rear end. Her hocks were so flimsy, they almost bent backwards.
She hadn’t learned much from her mother either. Canine etiquette was beyond her. She lacked social skills and was clumsy around the other dogs, crashing into them and barking hysterically when they defended themselves. Sometimes she didn’t have a clue.
She had skin allergies and a nervous habit of scratching and licking herself, creating bald patches on her side and rear end. What was I going to do with this poor girl? I had worked with a dog who was fine with people, but terrified of other dogs. I hadn’t worked with a dog who was fine with other dogs, but terrified of people. I had a lot to learn!
Bandit, Chase and I began the long process of letting Zulu get used to us. For the longest time, she hid out and avoided eye contact. She was afraid of the dark and didn’t want to go outside for the last potty break before bed, even when I turned the yard lights on and went out with her. At first, we didn’t do any formal training, other than letting her follow the other dogs’ example for the house rules, and teaching her to walk on a leash with me. I just wanted her to learn how to be a dog and be comfortable in her own skin.
On June 3, 2008, I wrote in my blog:
Cay came when I called her today! She was hungry and saw me give a treat to Chase! Chase comes on a whistle and Bandit comes when called by name. Without formal training, Cay has picked up on the whistle. Now when I whistle, she races Chase to get to me first.
Cay still doesn’t like to go out in the dark early in the morning or late at night, even with the porch and yard lights on. I have to put a leash on her in the evening to take her out in the yard. I think her fear of the dark is left over from being dumped in the wilderness with her littermates. Who knows what was out there in the dark. I’ve found that rescued dogs come with different fears and anxieties and we don’t always know what caused them. I’ve never had a dog that I knew to be afraid of the dark before.
Cay rode along when my other dogs went to herd sheep and cattle. There she met new people who gave her praise and treats, and she saw different kinds of animals. She climbed hills and went on walks every day with my other dogs and me, running and playing in a big fenced field. Her muscles developed and her coat took on a healthy sheen. After months with us she looked me in the eye one day and, for the first time, I noticed the depth of her gorgeous dark brown eyes. I realized then that she had never looked directly back at me before, but had always turned her head away. Now she was looking back and she had the most beautiful dark brown eyes I had ever seen.
Somehow everyone decided that this dog belonged with me. I was the last to know. I really resisted keeping a third dog. She was needy, unstable, hard on the other dogs and made our lives more complicated. But then I noticed that the people who inquired about her seemed to be needy, unstable, and complicated—the last thing she needed. When I saw her making gradual progress, I didn’t want to disrupt her life again. And so she is still here.
.Cayenne, August 2008
I began to call her Cayenne, because her darker highlights are the color of cayenne pepper. Plus I knew there was some spice inside her somewhere, we just had to find it.
Maybe Cay felt my change in commitment. She began to come out of her shell more and revealed a depth that had been masked by the skittish behavior, the furtive glances, and the hunched posture. She was beginning to let me in.
As Cay became comfortable in our home and in her own skin, she learned to be a happy, confident dog. Beginning about six months after she came to live with us, she and I completed three levels of obedience classes. She learned to go for a ride in the truck with me, without the other dogs. During the first class, we worked mostly on getting her used to strange dogs, sounds, and movements all around her. She wasn’t comfortable with anything happening behind her and spun around if she heard activity there. But she was very biddable and wanted to please me. By the end of the third class she was doing all of the exercises faithfully. Although she had been developmentally delayed since she was a pup, I discovered that she was a very smart dog when she overcame her fears.
Cay decided one night that she wanted to sleep spread out on the dog bed, not curled up in the back of her crate. So I left the crate door open and she slept stretched out on the dog bed all night, taking up plenty of space. This was quite an accomplishment for a girl who used to curl up in the back of her crate whenever she was scared or tired. She was learning to TAKE UP SPACE, a big step! She was happy to be “outside of the box”!
One day I let Cay try sheep herding. She was interested and excited that she could move the sheep by turning her body. She was so confident in herself that day that when we got home, she jumped up on my bed for the first time ever! I guess she thought her new accomplishment had earned her that privilege.
Cay had come a long way and had developed enough muscle to stabilize her back end. But almost two years after she joined our family, she still had nervous energy and habits. I looked for an activity that she and I could do together, separate from the other dogs, to build her confidence and our relationship and help her expel her nervous energy without scratching and licking herself. I decided to enroll her in an agility class, even though I didn’t think she could maneuver all of the obstacles due to her poor rear structure.
I was amazed with Cay’s progress as she quickly mastered the agility obstacles. First she had to get to know all the people and dogs in the class. Then she followed my lead as I guided her through the obstacles. One week, two guests came to observe the class. Cay was so distracted by the strangers that she had to be introduced to them before she was able to run the obstacle course.
I was an experienced handler, having trained and trialed other dogs in agility. Cay learned to do the tunnel, low jumps, and even the contact obstacles that challenged her. In the beginning though, she didn’t think she could jump up on the pause table. I realized this was due to her weak back end, but I also knew she could jump that high because she had jumped up on my bed at home. I worked with Cay and my other dogs at home, having the others jump on the table first, then giving her the opportunity. With a lot of convincing and some special treats, Cay learned that she could, indeed, jump up on the table. The next time we went to class, she completed all the obstacles in an agility course. On the last day of class, Cay was the only dog in the class to run two perfect courses with two clean runs. That’s quite an accomplishment for an abandoned puppy who almost didn’t survive, and was afraid of her own shadow, isn’t it? Agility taught Cay and me that together we can conquer any obstacle. Great job Cay! You have come a long way.
The agility instructor asked me if Cay was a Carolina Dog. I wasn’t familiar with the breed, but I learned that Carolina Dogs run feral in southern regions of the country and are becoming a recognized breed. I realized then that Cay’s litter may have been feral, which would explain a lot. Cay looks much like a Carolina Dog, but her littermate sister looks more like a red Australian Cattle Dog. Perhaps they’re a mix of the two breeds.
Cay with Hot Spot on Side, May 2009
As she turned three years old, Cay continued to suffer from skin problems apparently caused by allergies, a weak immune system, and a nervous habit of licking and biting herself whenever she was nervous or intimidated. Seasonal allergies intensified her itching problems. As I worked to solve Cay’s skin problems, I learned about canine more nutrition, food allergies and contact allergies. I fed her a limited ingredient diet, herbal supplements to help cool her skin, and other supplements to help support her skin, coat and immune system.
Cay at the Minnesota Valley Humane Society Woofer & Hoofer Walk, June 2010 (Photo by Allen Anderson)
Last August at the Dog Days of Stockholm (in Stockholm, Wisconsin), I received samples of Omega Fields Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets. Adding these products to Cay’s diet healed her skin and coat. The hair grew back over her bald patches and her coat became soft and silky. Omega Fields products transformed Cay’s skin and coat to a new level of vitality (use code JP2011 to get $2 off your order at www.OmegaFields.com). That’s why I handed out samples of Omega Nuggets and Canine Shine at the Dog Days of Stockholm on August 6th this year, and why I support rescue organizations that give dogs like Cayenne an opportunity for a happy life.
Cayenne, These Days
I’m amazed by all that my dogs have taught me! We make the world a better place, even by helping one animal at a time. And they make the world a better place by turning us into better people. Cayenne taught me that a dog who’s afraid of her own shadow can eventually bond to a person. With time and patience and love this scaredy dog learned to smile and be happy, to run up to a person to be petted. She’s wiggly and joyful now, and seeks attention from my friends. Cayenne taught me to be patient and that the waiting is worthwhile. She loves me now, and fully participates in life. That is one of my greatest accomplishments, ever.