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When we got Panda, almost a decade ago, I wasn't a dog person, in fact, I was really unsure about the whole prospect. Leo and I had been together for less than a year, had quit our jobs to move to another state 3000 miles away with no jobs lined up and very little money. We moved into an apartment sight unseen in a state Leo had never even visited and now we were adding a little being to the mix. If a friend told me they were going to do the same thing, I'd think they were a few clowns short of a circus and I'd be absolutely right.

Snuggly Panda04

But of all the impulsive perhaps ill-advised decisions we made, getting Panda was my favorite of the bunch. She was unrecognizable from the girl I know now. She was a dog who hated, with every fiber of her body, going for walks. She would scramble like a fish at the end of a line, on her leash, panicked and running for cover anywhere she could. She'd jump into bushes, under cars, anywhere she thought might hide her from children, bikes, skateboards, and other dogs. When we would stop and ask Panda to sit, she'd shake and drool in fear, completely incapacitated. There was no way to exercise her enough to quell her fear, she was only at ease when she was home with her humans or somewhere quiet and away from the city.

As odd as it sounds, as a non-dog person, this was the dog I needed at that time. I remember being scared to tears every 4th of July as a child, so overwhelmed by the noise, so desperate to be brave enough to handle it all and so disappointed at myself at failing. Something about Panda's debilitating fear just resonated with me and it was gratifying to be able to begin to slowly help her through her fears. At 10 years old, she is still a soft dog who struggles with loud noises and boisterous children, but she is also loving, brilliant, and so eager to please. She was pretty much potty trained over night, has never destroyed people stuff and is the easiest dog in the world to train. All in all, an awesome pup.

Beautiful Thea07

When we rescued Thea, we wanted a dog for Panda, someone playful and confident and focused on being a friend to the old girl who really can't be bothered with other dogs. We got what we wished for and then some with Thea. While she was food motivated, she couldn't care less about how happy or stern we sounded. She cared nothing about staying near us when there were other dogs or people around. The idea of walking her on a loose leash was (ok, fine, still is) a pipe dream because there is no treat more rewarding than playing with someone or something new. But the payoff has been a dog who has completely brought Panda out of her shell, entertains her during the day and she's a dog who has come to really bond with her people too. I can't fathom a cold winter night without my sweet Thea curled up next to me on the bed.


And now there is Darwin. In two weeks he's managed to win over even his curmudgeonly big sis.

Play Time07

He's a zippy quick learner who'll do almost anything for a cookie.

Darwin Socializing at Puppy Play Time01

He's learning the protocols and manners required to live with the rest of us.


But (and doesn't everyone have their issues?) Darwin is more like his big sis than many would suspect. He suffers from some fear agression with strange dogs, and to a lesser degree, strange humans. In many ways, this is the same sort of fear that Panda had, all those years back, only manifested in a vastly different way. So our big project, more so than the potty training (thank goodness for rug cleaners) is to work on little D's socializing and we lucked out with our great local dog school. Socializing a dog with fear aggression means making for a safe and positive environment for all parties involved. The only way to convince a dog that other dogs are safe is to have him around other dogs but you can't just let him loose at a dog park and expect things to work out fine.

Darwin Socializing at Puppy Play Time03

So with some expert help, Darwin is learning that great things can happen when strange dogs are around and that strange people sometimes come bearing cookies. It's not going to be an instant change but even after an hour of working with him at school, he was letting loose with dogs he'd been saying unspeakable things to at the start of the night.

One of his classmates, a purebred malamute, had the same issue a few short weeks ago and was a testament to what a little good socializing can do. I'm feeling confident that we can lick this issue so that even strangers get to see him as the same great boy we know him to be.

Play Time05

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People like you restore my faith in humanity. :) Hugs to you and your puppers.

They are lucky puppers! And this makes me think I should get Bailey a puppy after all.

Thank you for the puppy video! As happy as I am that Chappy is 9 and a mature adult and all that, I miss that puppy silliness!

This post makes me SOOOOO happy! I run a rescue for Jack Russells and your first baby is SO typical of what I find in rehomed dogs.

Have you ever thought of fostering? You would be a natural!

I LOVE the title "Fixer-uppers". All of my dogs have been fixer-uppers and despite their issues it's absolutely worthwhile to see them learn and overcome their problems.

Wow, I can't believe how similar we are! My husband and I moved to another state and we had no jobs and little money too. We got our little apartment sight unseen and my husband had only visited our new state one more time than I had (2). Everybody thought we were crazy! It all worked out. What's funny is that we are about to do it all over again. We are moving back to his hometown of Pittsburgh. I have only been there once but it felt like home immediately. This time we have a little more money and a job lined up for one of us. But, it is still a big move and I am looking forward to the adventure!

Nice to hear about all of your pups! It's funny how whether we are animal or man we all have our issues! Nice to hear that everyone is getting along.There is nothing like family. :)

Oh, how sweet! You are a kind soul. (And your doggies are matchy-matchy, which is funny.)

All of kitties have been fixer-uppers. Most recently, I picked a bald, starving, nearly-dead kitten off of the side of the road. He'd been (probably) hit by a car, and had a pelvis that had been shattered and then badly healed. Noting about this kitten said "happy ending."

We spent a *lot* of money on veterinary care, and really didn't know if he would survive. And now, he's a chubby ball of fluff, napping on top of my feet. He's playful and happy, and is about the least "damaged" animal I've ever met.

Dogs are the most amazingly rewarding beings, and repay so much for what is really not that much work in the scheme of their lifetimes. I enjoyed reading this so much. Of all of your three, I resonate with Thea more because she's so like my Lunil, but they are all gorgeous. Sometimes it's hard to remember you're all half a world away and I can't meet you for a dog-walk down on the beach.

Blessings for the New Year to you all.

Your pack is wonderful - can't tell you how entertained I've been by their antics. Thanks for sharing. I, too, adopted my dog from a rescue, and will be going back for a brother or sister for her sometime this year. Yes, rescue dogs can have their issues, but so can any new friend (human as well as canine). Part of become the best of friends is providing the loving support to help them through it, isn't it?

My dog Elsa's story is here:

I forgot to add my email address to my last comment. Oops!!! :)

This was a wonderfully inspiring post to read Marnie! Thank you.

You're such a wonderful dog mummy! I really enjoyed this post, and the great photos :)

you and leo are wonderful for giving those pups a loving home. they are so lucky to have found you.

Your pups are so adorable & so lucky to have someone like you who cares enough to want to help them become good canine citizens. I wish there were a cat school - we took my daughter's 17 year old cat in. She had to relocate to DC for work & was worried about moving such an old cat, especially since he's had some medical problems & she's living in temporary housing. He's been with us for 2 months now & his health has improved greatly on meds & he is the sweetest kitty who loves his humans. However, he & our big dominant female cat do not like each other - not one whit & there is still growling & hissing after 2 months. They don't actually hurt each other - just the humans' nerves but still it would be nice to have peace once again.

Awww, yay! (I love the photo of all three bellied up to their dog bowls.) I just got a puppy myself, in September, and I am also learning how rewarding it is to introduce a pup to new things and to give him a good, fulfilling life. I never knew how nice it was to have a dog in the house!

So glad to see that Darwin's doing so well!

How sweet! You all look really happy together :)

Thanks soooo much Marnie for posting this wonderful little history of the pups and putting them all into context. I learned much about the older ladies, things that makes me proud of how far they've come, and something more about the little man. How smart and courageous and persevering he is to work so hard on overcoming what scares him the most.

Outstanding! If all dog owners were as committed to a pups development as you I wouldn't have any to rescue. Thank you.

I think your pupsters are fantastic. Their pictures and adventures make your blog so unique.

Love that you called Panda brilliant. Not a word we use for our cocker. Sweet, yes.

This was delightful!

OMG, your doggies are so adorable! It looks like you have a very happy family. :)

This article gives me much hope. I too am struggling with a fear aggressive dog. This is the first time, out of all the dogs I have had, for this to happen. My lil buddy was about 5 or 6 months old when "surprise" attacked by a neighbors dog. He was not seriously injured, thank goodness. Since then he's 7 months old, it's gotten colder out, and I haven't been able to socialize or walk him much. There is only 2 dogs in his life that he trusts, his big sis and his even bigger american bulldog girlfriend. All others he freaks out and wants to attack now. Even strange people he has a hard time calming down and barks and growls at even the slightest noise sometimes. I blame myself for letting this get out of hand and I live in a fairly small town with not many options for a dog trainer or dog school. I would hate for him to seriuosly injure another dog or even a person. He's a very sweet dog at home and would be even sweeter if I can find a way to let him know it's ok to trust other dogs and people. I'm glad to have found this article. It truly does give me strength and hope and I know with good guidance and some time, he will turn around and be the goofy, relaxed dog that he is at home. Thanks so much!

What a sweet addition...Darwin is just adorable. :)

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This page contains a single entry by Marnie published on January 1, 2011 4:48 PM.

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