It’s been two weeks since we brought our little precious girl home and there have been plenty of ups and downs. We did decide to call her Karma straight away. Mostly just because it ‘fit’, but also because the poor pup has a huge learning curve to catch up with all the human words we are throwing her way, and while we’re trying to teach her who she is (KARMA!) the other option we had been tossing about (Nola) just sounds too similar to “no” and conveniently Karma also sounds like “come”! 🙂
The first three days were not surprisingly spent wading about in dog poo and pee. Like many rescue dogs, Karma has spent her entire life on a very short heavy chain on concrete, and even at Gosford Dog Paws it was a kennel environment. My first instinct had been to spoil her with soft beds and blankies, but I wish I had waited on that as almost everything she came in contact with ended up in the bin after a day or two. However, we were both very relieved to find she is quite a smart pup despite her previous severe malnutrition and abuse. By the fourth day my constant trips with her out to the yard (grass under her feet – oh my!) started to sink in and by the fifth day there were no more poo accidents in her ‘bedroom’ or our back patio. Yay!!! Now we can spoil our little girl like crazy and give her every girl’s (err, dog’s) dream bedroom!
Unfortunately Karma suffers from extreme submissive urination issues. She is afraid of absolutely everything – including her shadow – and yes, that made her pee on my foot too. Poor baby would also pee every single time she took a drink of water or ate her food. I can only imagine the conditions she was in (and I try not to) but as I do know she was rescued with five other dogs I am sure that whenever they could get a scrap of food there was a big fight for it. Karma was just a pup, and the scars on her body tell me that the other dogs probably didn’t let her get much. Thank goodness for the internet, because after researching the issue of dogs urinating while eating their food or drinking, I found some good suggestions.
First, I took the food bowl away all together and just fed her out of my hands. All the while I would pat her and talk to her in a soothing voice. We did perhaps three meals like this, and then by the fourth meal I brought out the food dish, but I still hand fed her, just feeding her over the bowl. Again, patting her, and talking to her. The first day I brought the bowl back out she had an accident, but the second and third day she did not. Then I did start just putting her food in the dish and letting her eat, but always talking and patting her so she would feel safe and comfortable.
We also noticed Karma has a very difficult time standing while she’s eating due to her spinal issues. She always uses her front legs to support most of her weight, but when she was eating with her head down to the ground, she would lose her balance the entire time she was eating – going head over into the dish a few times or just over onto her side. So much effort on her part was just to stay upright that she would become anxious and then we’d have the urination issue again. So now we have built a little stand for her food and water dishes so she doesn’t have to lean down. This has helped her significantly and at least that one issue seems to be solved.
She also learned her name (and come :)) very quickly using reward-based training. Not surprising considering food is a powerful motivator in her world!
Her overall condition seems to be improving. Her coat looks better. We do give her fish oil and boiled egg ever day. She had the big interdigital cyst lanced prior to coming home with us, so she was on antibiotics and we bathe her feet with a medicated bath three times a week. I also soak her feet in epsom salts for some relief. The cyst and irritation on her other toes has definitely shrunk and improved but are not completely gone, so I still have concerns there. She has a few skin condition issues as well as long term callus and sores that I’ve been treating with paw paw ointment. They have improved quite a bit and have decreased by about half on her left front elbow.
The OCD chewing is getting slightly better, but definitely still a big issue and one I think she will struggle with for a very long time. Any time she gets upset, either because she is frustrated or scared, she looks for the closest thing to her and just starts chewing. She is missing so many teeth that most of the time she doesn’t do much damage, but it’s more her mental state that suffers. She gets a very glazed over look in her eyes and it’s as if she loses touch with the world and can no longer hear you. Any trying to pull her off the object of her frustration is ignored. When we brought her home from GDP they gave us this rubber tire that has obviously taken the brunt of many of these temper tantrums. But she will chew obsessively until she almost passes out and I knew this was an addiction that we had to break. Now, every time I see her starting to go to ‘that place’ emotionally, I immediately try and distract her and either give her a treat, or just get her to lay down so I can give her an ear scratch. Anything to distract her from going deeper down the dark path. This has actually been working really well, but of course I can’t be with her all the time, so we’ve had a few set backs.
And of course – she’s still a puppy. She never got to BE a puppy for the first year of her life, so I think she’s bringing it on ten fold now. I bought some traction mats to make the disabled ramp on the side of the house easier for her to get traction with her back feet. She hated them and wanted to chew those rubber mats into a thousand pieces. I had to drag her into the garage for a time-out. I sprayed them with vinegar, lemon-lime juice and jalapeno juice to stop her from chewing them. It was the best combination from my fridge that I figured wouldn’t hurt her but would surely at least make her pause long enough to realize that these mats were there to HELP her. She came bounding out of the garage (yes, yes, she can definitely bound!) and went to attack them again. She got a mouthful of the nasty concoction and…. started licking those mats like a mad dog. She thought it was delicious. Drat. I had to pull her back into the garage. I sprayed down the mats and I was going to take a little time-out for myself when she managed to get the door open (she is a sly little dog) and back to the mats. “Where’s that yummy tangy spicy stuff, mum?” she looked at me with quizzical eyes. And with that she lost interest in the mats.
Thinking I had won a major battle, I bought another rubber mat for the other side of the house in the foyer. It was a different sort but was on sale at the local hardware store for $60. Put it down and went in the house to celebrate my awesomeness as a dog-mum. I immediately hear a war being waged downstairs so I run down to see Karma shoveling tiny bits of rubber mat in her mouth like they were pieces of the tastiest bacon.
My husband and I were smitten with Karma from the very first moment she entered our lives, but taking a dog with physical and psychological issues into your home and life is a rather large commitment. But the improvements that we have seen in her every single day are absolutely astounding.
My husband will tell you that when we first brought her home, he really didn’t think that he would ever be able to take her for walks. That she might just walk a few yards and that was it. We knew she loved to play and we knew that would bring her happiness, and we definitely wanted to take her swimming to build up her strength too. But walks? Not really an option in our mind from seeing her that first couple of days. Two weeks in and when we take her to the park we have to force her back to the car because we don’t want her to over do it. She’s dragging us everywhere and so excited to experience the WORLD! She’ll run by Jason’s side with her cute little sideways run.
We were so concerned because to get to our back yard, on one side are stairs (which we knew she could never do) and on the other side is a steep grassy bit. I wish I had taken a video of her the first few days. The first day we carried her up. The second and third day she could get up but it was an effort. Two weeks later? She BOUNDS up in joy – her little back legs just flip up in the air behind her like a little deer. It’s the cutest thing.
She really is loving life just like a “normal” dog and when she rolls blissfully in the grass and groans and yawns, my heart swells with happiness.