Good Grief

Each month I receive dozens of emails and messages from followers who are worried about their senior babies. Some of those questions are way above my pay grade, and I simply refer them to their vet. Others are common questions that I have answered many times over the years. My experience with so many senior and special needs babies over the years often comes in handy. I can talk at great length about getting an ill dog to eat, or teaching a blind dog how to deal with their world. But one question that I struggle to answer concerns the grief process we all go thru when one of our babies takes their final trip over the bridge.

Since we first opened the sanctuary in the summer of 2001 we have lost several hundred babies to a multitude of maladies. Most conditions that affect our silver faced loved ones are familiar to me. I always try to make people understand that there is no substitute for an excellent vet, and we have certainly been blessed in that area. But I am willing and honored to share my experiences with anyone that is searching for answers.

One question that I am most commonly asked is, “How do I get over the loss of one of my precious babies?” The answer to that is most often the same. I tell everyone that for us, with as many little ones that depend on us each day, we don’t have time for an extended period of grief. Our babies need us to be on top of our game each and every day. Sometimes, however, that is harder than others.

The heartfelt answer to that question is personal. By personal I mean that each of us deals with grief in a variety of ways. Growing up my mother always believed that the best way to deal with that grief is to get another baby right away. She would say, “Have a place for your love to flow.” I lived most of my life with that as my standard. Rick, on the other hand, needed more time in our early years together to process his feelings before he could even consider getting another dog. Our situation now is very unique in that babies come to us on a regular basis and we can’t wait till our hearts have healed to bring another family member into our home.

We often fall in love with our new babies from a picture taken in a shelter or in a previous home. We love them before we ever hold them. What a blessing it is that each of our furry friends brings enough love with them to fill our hearts. There is never a break in the cycle of love when you care for as many babies as we do. Much of the time our grief is quickly quenched by the love of another dog that needs us. This is not the answer, however, for everyone who deals with the same loss.

I would never say that I love any of our babies more than another. But I am honest enough to say that some babies, for many reasons, fill a larger spot in our hearts. Part of that reality is that the baby that needs us the most is the one that gets the most. So when a younger healthy dog comes into our lives it is not difficult for us to let them go on to their forever home. We fulfill the mission to alter their lives rather quickly. But when a special baby like Trooper comes into our lives, we spend days, months and sometimes years watching every meal, every action, every sign of change, and every dose of medication.

At this point I can’t imagine another “Trooper” coming into our lives. Trooper needed us more than any other baby we have ever rescued. And immediately our entire world of friends and followers fell in love with him just like we did. The grief from that loss does not go away. It changes from day to day, but it never fully leaves our hearts. Some days it weighs us down, other days it holds us up. The morning our sweet little man took his last breath will never leave me. But neither will the first time I saw him bark at the top of his lungs for his dinner. His front feet bounced off the ground, and he got louder and louder with each burst of his gruff, old-man voice. The first time he stood between my feet with his nose resting on my shoes while I washed dishes produced a feeling in my heart that is still there. I feel the comfort he felt at knowing I was so close. I feel the satisfaction of doing everything in my power to meet his needs. I feel his gratitude for being safe and cared for. I still feel all of those things. So Trooper is not gone. He no longer needs insulin shots, or a special diet, or a watchful eye over his every move. What he does need is for me to continue to be the same person that held him that first day when he was so weak, the same person that held him and relished the soft whisper of his breath when he was at the top of his game healthwise, and the same person that held him that last day when the feeling of my arms holding him close was ALL he needed.

For anyone who loves and loses a special friend and family member I have a very important message that comes from my heart. Be the person after they are gone that you were when they were with you. You all know that is what they would want. They desperately needed for you to be happy and healthy while they were with you. The tables turn when they leave us though. Then it is about what we need. And that is certainly different for us all. I believe that we require a period of grief, whether that is long or short is not the point. But I strongly believe that we do our babys’ memories an injustice if we don’t eventually move forward with our lives. We don’t replace our lost friends, but we give ourselves a place for the love to flow. That, in my opinion, is Good Grief.

 

The Mirrors of Their Souls

Because our canine babies can’t actually speak to us, we read their body language, their tail wags, the way they hold their heads, and the messages that come from their eyes. Over the years we have seen happy eyes, sad eyes, angry eyes, fearful eyes, shameful eyes, and exhausted eyes. Sometimes we see the entire spectrum of emotional eyes in the same baby.

Andre’ was our first official rescue and as you can see in the pic on the right above, his eyes were sad and fearful when he first arrived off the streets. His body told the story of neglect, and his eyes reflected the angst that consumed him. After a few short weeks of care and attention, Andre’s eyes glowed with love and happiness. He blossomed physically and recovered quickly from the anxiety that sought to destroy his self-esteem. Andre’ was our Alpha Male for over 14 years and his eyes were proud, clear, and playful throughout his life with us.

Very soon after we opened the sanctuary I have found myself in different shelters all over the state. Most of the eyes that look back at me from their concrete stalls are conspicuously full of fear. But they also manifest a deep and oppressing shame. That look haunts me in my dreams as there is no justification for dishonor from these creatures of God that had no control over their situation. We all know that the breed we dearly love is a proud breed. We’ve all seen our Dachshund babies hold their heads high and look at the world as if they are completely in charge. That extreme expression of pride in their eyes tells us they are happy and secure. But when they are subjected to the horrors of street life or the panic-stricken sounds of the constant barking and crying from shelter dogs, their pride is replaced with a denigration that tears at the hearts of all of us who would love each and every one of them if we could.

Occasionally, we rescue a dog that comes from an abusive situation. Those babies that have not been allowed to activate their flight response from abuse, turn to the ardent aggression that is their last resort. Their eyes are distended and glassy. They watch for any opportunity to strike out at anything and everything as their confusion disallows any realization that they are finally safe. These unfortunate souls, that need love the most, are often the last to receive the tenderness and sympathy that is their only saving grace. As humans we also activate a fight or flight mode and when confronted with a snarling, snapping canine we are predisposed to escape. Most of these dogs are condemned to never leave the shelters alive as there are never enough avenues for their rescue and rehabilitation. I have personally received a very special gift from having watched Rick take several of these ostracized babies and turn them into the loving, cuddly, sweet babies that they were meant to be.

Because we rescue so many seniors we see earth shattering grief in their eyes more than the emotions that can control the younger babies. Our old babies have lived long enough to put aside any predisposition for overwhelming fear or aggression. They have the wisdom to forgo the shame or helplessness we see in the shelter babies. But they know grief. They walk hand in hand with sorrow. Their heartache devours their every movement. They are broken, and sadly they often accept that state of mind as their final destiny. These eyes are the ones that carry a heavy burden of a lifetime of experience. These eyes will never emanate playfulness or hubris. But what they can achieve over time is a dedicated look of eternal love and greatfulness that fills our hearts with joy.

Another result of our dedication to rescuing the old and the ill is the exhaustion in the eyes of a baby that has struggled long enough. Rick and I, along with the expert guidance of a dedicated vet give everything we can to these senior citizens. When the look of weariness and debilitation cannot be corrected, we make the hardest decision we are ever faced with in the care of these fragile beings. We take away their pain and illness through the only avenue left to us at that point as we hold them when they take their final breath.

How totally blessed we have been to watch the eyes of  countless rescue babies change with time. Love, acceptance, tenderness, and care always triumph. Obviously, some recover more than others. A few babies will hold on to their pain longer than others. But with very few exceptions, we have experienced the joyful transformation that we seek in the eyes of the babies we so dearly love. Their eyes always tell us what they need. Their eyes always reflect what they receive. Their eyes allow us to listen to their hearts and look into the mirrors of their precious souls.

I’m Just Saying

Connie in the yard

It is obvious from our enjoyment of social media that we all like to talk to each other about our families. Many of us have furbabies that make up a large part of our family, and we love to talk to each other about them. I receive dozens of emails and messages each week from people that want to share their experiences with their dogs. I love reading all the different descriptions and tales of their babies’ adventures and misadventures.

But I have also been in the company of some people who roll their eyes a bit when I begin to talk about my vast family of fur babies. They give me the “It’s only a dog look.” I’m sure you have all experienced that look. Whether we are talking about their funny traits, their illnesses, their devotion, or the incredible loss when they cross the bridge, some people just do not understand. So we gather together on social media, and we all talk about our little ones with a passion that is well understood by our peers.

I spend many hours each week talking about my babies online. Most of my conversations center around adoptions, new babies, vet treatments, transports, and the joy of watching a new baby learn to love and live again. Often I feel as if I miss out on the joy of talking about the little things that make us love our babies. There is, after all, only so much time in a day.

At the end of each day here at the sanctuary Rick and I spend at least an hour just sitting with the babies and talking about who ate well and who didn’t, who seems to be feeling better, who doesn’t feel well, and who needs to go to the vet next. That conversation can be quite complicated with the large number of babies we care for. But at the end of those conversations the subject turns to the lighter side of our lives, and we laugh and talk about our babies’ little quirks.

Those individual traits, along with the similarities we all see, are what roll around in my head at night when I lay down to rest. I often wonder how could I ever completely educate someone about our babies. How could I make another person understand the needs and particular desires of each of these special little souls? Of course, the answer is that I could never truly educate another person about our babies. You have to live with them each day, love them each day, feed them each day, and revel in their joys each day to know them well.

So today I have done the next best thing; the thing that we all love to do. Today, I’m talking about our family and how incredibly wonderful they all are.

I wish you could all stand at my bathroom door and watch Lady Bug bark at herself in our full length mirror. I wish you could watch Rowdy lay down on a pile of paper towels after he has shredded them and gotten caught. I wish you could all watch Higgins chase the shadows of birds across our lawn and throw his head back and howl when the shadow crosses the fence. I wish you could all feel the joy when Waco manages to get his arthritic back legs out the doggie door. I wish you could all watch our barn dogs waiting for their turn to jump in the water trough just after it has been filled with fresh cool water. I wish you could all watch the pride in Ace’s face when he chases Mr. Gibbs all the way to the bathroom door where Mr. Gibbs eats his eggs at night. I wish you could all see Lexi stand so very patiently at night for me to find her an empty bed and cover her up with a fresh blanket. I wish you could all watch Ziggy scratch at the bottom of the crate when he is waiting on his lunch. I wish you could all watch Trooper stand between my ankles when I cook or clean in my kitchen. I wish you could all watch Pumpkin claim the big bed directly in front of the wood stove in the Doggie Room on a cold night. I wish you could see all the grass on Baby Jade’s back after she has rolled in the warm sunshine. I wish you could watch Christy stand on the edge of my bed and bark and fuss at Gena who is laying on the floor with half of her big body tucked up under the bed. I wish you could watch Delilah fly off the bed, only touching one of the stairs there for her benefit, when she hears Rick come thru the front door. I wish you could see Little Bit standing at the end of Rick’s bed, waiting patiently for him to fix her a special spot, while the dozen or so other dogs on the bed claim their place. I wish you could watch Jake walk so very slowly down the hall when he knows I’m trying to get around him. I wish you could hear Zoe barking at me like I’m a total stranger two minutes after I return to the kitchen. I wish you could see Beth stand on top of a cart filled with 300 pounds of horse feed as Rick pushes it to the check out at the feed store. I wish you could watch Gilbert growl while he leans into Rick to get more lovin. I wish you could hear the sweet sound of slumber when a dozen dogs are curled up on Rick’s bed in the evening after their turn for belly rubs. I wish you could see how high Winston can jump when Rick throws a little snack of kibble to the Kitchen pack. I wish you could see Dexter get the zoomies right before I feed him his dinner. I wish you could watch Maddie maneuver a balled up blanket into a perfectly placed cover over her entire body. I wish you could walk thru the sanctuary with me at 1am when I make my final walk thru to cover up the babies. ¬†I’m just saying….

 

From My Point of View

Last week while listening to a local radio broadcast of the news the announcer very casually mentioned that our local animal shelter euthanizes 20-30 dogs every day!! EVERY DAY!! I turned off the radio to let my mind absorb what I had just heard. I reached for a calulator and multiplied 52 weeks in a year, 5 work days per week, and an average of 25 dogs per day, and the number made me cry. 6500 dogs this year will lose their lives in Ector County, Texas. We have a population of just over 100,000 people that is growing every day as the oil field booms. That’s one dog for every 15 people.

I read comments every day from people who say every shelter should be No Kill. What do we as a society expect these shelters to do with 25 dogs over their capacity each and every day? One of our local shelters has just received the go ahead to built a new larger facility. How long will it take to fill up that new facility with 25 dogs a day coming in. Maybe a week if we are lucky. I was in this shelter last week picking up a 9 year old that had been turned in by her lifelong owner for having diarrhea. It took about 30 minutes to fill out all the paperwork for me to rescue this little doll. While I was there 4 dogs came thru the front door to MEET THEIR FATE.

A discussion about what can be done to curb this horrific situation almost always leads back to more government regulation. I’m all for laws governing the breeding of dogs. I’m all for laws to try to force people to spay and neuter their pets. But from my experience those laws are almost futile. In Texas, commercial breeders are required to get a license. They are also required to open their doors to quarterly inspections. Those inspections don’t happen. Many back yard breeders say, “Well we are only having one or two litters a year, so it is more of a hobby than a business.” Our government cannot go house to house to insure that all dogs are altered. They cannot keep up with the demands on their time as it is. No way they can enforce more laws to prevent the over population of dogs.

Ok maybe we need more rescuers. We have four layers of rescue in our society. The top layer is made up of organized rescues that vet their applications with strict standards. The next layer is also comprised of organized rescues that set up at Petsmart and other facilities and events for adoption days. Then we have the shelters and Humane Societies that adopt dogs from their facilities. And last we have the dogs that are lucky enough to get pulled off the street by a caring individual. All of these people are doing EVERYTHING in their power to save as many dogs as possible, and they all suffer through one horrible situation after another. Shelter workers often take a beating in the public view. Would you do their job? I certainly wouldn’t. Most of these people are there because of their love for the animals, but turnover in these jobs is tremendous, and I can certainly understand why.

As many of you are aware we are currently caring for 58 dogs. In the last week we have had three adopted and four new ones came in. We are 18 dogs over our capacity and each day we struggle to get to the end of the chores. We are desperately trying to raise the funds needed to build a separate facility on our land that will be able to handle 100 dogs. During the month of May I have turned down 14 dogs that needed a soft spot to land. At that rate and considering the increase in our local population how long will it take us to fill up our new facility? Not long, not very long at all. Last night Rick and I had a long conversation about the tiny, little dent we make in the problem. We are well aware that we cannot save them all, we can’t even save a small percentage. Our only saving grace is that as we look around at all the babies curled up beside us and in numerous dog beds all over the floor, we know that our efforts made a huge difference to those babies. And that knowledge is enough to make us get back up each morning and do the very best we can for the ones that depend on us.

So where does that leave us? There is only one solution that I can see. We must have an army that is huge, that is resolute, that is self-sacrificing, that is relentless. THAT ARMY IS YOU! You are the only way this problem ever gets reduced. You must rescue one more than you think you can handle. You must encourage everyone you know to care for their babies for the entire life of that baby. You must encourage anyone you know that breeds their dogs even one time, to STOP! You must push the AKC to change their standards for show dogs that must be intact. You must volunteer at your local shelter or humane society. You must pass on a kind word to the workers in your local shelter. You must make your social media posts about the positive things we can do and not about the horrible things that we all see everyday. You must not spend one ounce of your energy trashing the people who give up their dogs, because you will not change who they are. You must stop giving animal abusers the spotlight as we all know they are there. You must raise your children to know that a pet is for life. You must show your neighbors that there are people who will help them if they are struggling to care for their pets. You must encourage the seniors among us to plan for the care of their babies if they become incapable of doing it for themselves. You must stop valuing puppies over adult dogs, You must protest your local pet stores that sell puppies from puppy mills. You must transport for your local rescues. You must foster for your local rescues. You must offer to pay for spay/neuter for young couples that are struggling to make ends meet. You must walk thru your local shelter often enough to remember that those sad faces behind those fences have no options. You are their only option. You are their only advocate. You are their only chance to know the love of a human like they deserve.

Ok so now my rant is over. I realize that no one can do everything on that list. Rick and I don’t do everything on that list. But we must all do something more than what we are currently doing. Because from my point of view that is the only hope for the millions of babies that will lose their lives this year to the tragedy that we as humans have created.

 

 

In the Eyes of the Beholder

Beauty is something we all crave. We want beautiful spouses, beautiful children, beautiful homes, beautiful cars, and beautiful clothes. We travel to see beautiful scenery. We pray for beautiful weather, and we are attracted to beautiful friends. Everything around us promotes our desire for beauty. The movies, television, newspapers, magazines, and books that we consume revel in beauty. Ads for clothes, makeup, hairstyles, and even toothpaste tell us we need to strive for as much beauty as we can get.

Our dictionaries define beauty as prime, choice, winning, advantage, strength, benefit, and fascinating. Because of this accepted definition beautiful people are allowed many benefits in our society. They often get the best jobs, the preeminent opportunities, and the utmost recognition. Most of us would agree that this value system is both unfair and unfortunate. But we are programmed to accept it because it seems familiar and ironically justified.

This yardstick also applies to our choice of pets. At the sanctuary, because we rescue mostly senior and special needs dogs, we don’t get that many beautiful dogs, if they are judged by the normal standards of society. When we do rescue a beautiful, healthy dog our Facebook page explodes with hundreds of shares, hundreds of comments, and thousands of likes. These babies are not only adopted quickly but we generally have multiple approved applications to choose from. We would not deny these babies the attention they receive. We are thrilled when any of our babies find a wonderful forever home.

But while we are like everyone else that is instantly attracted to the beautiful, healthy, and young babies, we have also been blessed with the opportunity to see beyond the gorgeous coats, the clear eyes, and the spry attitudes. We spend most of our lives with the silver faces, the crooked mouths, the chewed up ears, the cloudy eyes, and the arthritic legs.

As we get to know each of our new residents we discover the wisdom behind those cloudy eyes, the calm acceptance in those silver faces, the tenacity in those chewed up ears, and the life experience in the roads traveled by those arthritic legs. We see unmatched devotion in the blind dog that stands between our ankles when we cook. We see the perfect patience in the arthritic dog that struggles to cross the sometimes slippery tile floor. We see the persistence in the weak dog that tries over and over to maneuver through the doggie door. We see the excitement in the deaf baby that realizes when our eyes meet that we are talking to him.

We are forever blessed by the enlightenment these old babies bring to our lives, and their courage helps us to face our daily struggles with a little less self-possessed sympathy. We enjoy the tranquility of cuddling up with a baby who doesn’t feel the need to jump up and run outside each time the wind blows a branch against the house. We delight in the commendable affirmation of an old baby that has just arrived and finds a warm reception when curling up next to others on a soft bed. Our eyes are opened to the real beauty in our world; the beauty that doesn’t judge, the beauty that doesn’t tease, the beauty that doesn’t envy.

I’ve heard it said that adopting an older dog is a waste of money because they won’t live very long or their vet bills will be too high. How much is wisdom worth? How much is calm devotion worth in your life? How much is contentment and tranquility worth in this fast paced world we all live in?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that senior dogs are perfect for every family. What I am saying is that they can bring things into our lives that we don’t always get from our world. I’m saying that the value of a companion cannot be measured with life span. I’m saying that the love of an old baby cannot be measured in dollars and cents, and I’m saying that beauty, when it comes to our babies is very much in the eyes of the beholder.

 

I Got You Babe

The bonds that we share in this world are what makes our lives full. Whether those bonds are with two legged loved ones or four legged babies, we all cherish those relationships. Rick and I have been blessed with 43 years together. We raised two amazing children, and we have been blessed with four beautiful grand children. We have loved hundreds of dogs, quite a few cats, a handful of horses, more rabbits than we bargained for, ten siblings, and many incredible, devoted friends. These relationships have filled our hearts, our lives, and our minds with love, joy, companionship, fun, drama, heartache, disappointment, and sometimes great loss. I began that list with love because it is the sustaining element in our lives. The list ends with great loss because that can consume our souls and prevent us from enjoying or even remembering the other components of our relationships.

The same list holds true for our babies here at the sanctuary. They experience many of the same emotions that we as humans do. They flourish when they feel love, and they grieve when they experience great loss. Because so many of our babies come to us alone we have no way of knowing the bonds they have been blessed to know during their lives. We can certainly tell when a baby comes directly from an owner, or an owner’s child that they are in the throes of great loss. For many of our babies, heartache and disappointment are evident in their sunken eyes, and their fear of accepting even a gentle touch.

These shattered lives almost always begin to flourish right away. What they need in the beginning is to feel safe, and thankfully that happens quickly with most rescues. Once they realize that the meals will be coming every day, the beds will always be dry and warm, the hugs and gentle words will be plentiful, and the friends are accepting, they blossom into the beautiful little beings that God so graciously gifted us with.

Rick and I love watching the babies making and choosing their closest friends from our pack. Almost without exception our new residents will find one or two other babies that they bond with. They can be found curled up together on the same bed, walking side by side in the yard, and standing strong while they bark at the wind and other threats in their guarded little world. Often Rick and I will make guesses on which babies will build these strong bonds.

Striker, who is not a Dachshund but was desperately in need of safe place, was a loner for several months after he came to the sanctuary. Then one day Rick came home with Rudy who was found wondering on a lonely highway in the oil fields. These two boys started out their friendship by challenging each other. Rick and I worried that their challenges would become more serious. But shortly after Rudy arrived they began to be partners in crime. They played tug of war with more than one stuffed toy and a few beds over the first few months of their friendship. And now they are buddies that keep each other in their sight so they can combine forces to warn the birds, the sirens, and any passing horses of their might. They prove, every day, that new relationships can come at any point and fulfill our need for life changing bonds.

Just as it is in the human world, once in awhile we have a baby that prefers to live a more solitary life. The first one I can remember was a fat little silver dapple that came to us from a shelter years ago. She did not want to be touched and even seemed disgruntled when we spoke to her. Cricket was the name I gave her, and she never wanted to be touched. It took weeks before I could easily pick her up to put her in a wire crate to eat her meals. She was always off to herself in the yard and by herself on a bed. I worried myself sick about her not being happy. But after many months I came to realize that she too deserved to choose her own way in this world. Who was I to try to change what made her happy? That baby lived with us for four years before she passed in her sleep one night. I knew that we had done our best by her, and that she had lived the life that she wanted in spite of our wishes.

Many babies over the years have come into our lives with their best friend by their side. Often they have just lost their human Mom or Dad and the four legged companion they curl up next to is all they have left in this world. These babies are, of course, blessed to have that long term love, and we are grateful that they don’t have to start out their new lives feeling alone. Some of these bonded pairs have branched out and added friends to their little “family”, and some never do. We have always done everything in our power to hold these bonds sacred. Once in awhile, however, life gets in the way.

Max and Ginger came to us a few years ago and they were mother and son. I was amazed at several things about this pair. The first thing I noticed is that they always slept side by side, and Max always had his head laying over his Mom as if he were protecting her. They reminded me of a mother/son duo we rescued years ago. The son was a big standard, and his Mom was a tiny little old lady. She slept on her son’s back for the few months that they enjoyed together here at the sanctuary. Old age took this Mom away from her son. He accepted his loss better than we feared, and Rick and I decided that he knew she had lost the quality of her life. Max and Ginger’s story ended much more tragically than that when a pack of stray dogs managed to jump our fence and attack this precious little family. Max fought hard for his Mom and had the wounds to prove how brave he had been. Ginger, sadly did not survive the attack. For several weeks after his tragic loss Max could be found lying on the spot where his Mom took her last breath. He lost weight, ignored the rest of the pack, including Rick and I, and wanted nothing more than to have his Mom by his side again. Eventually, Max began to come out of his grief and now enjoys the companionship of Pete, one of our longest term residents. They are always together on the same bed, and they cuddle closer together each night when I spread their blanket out over their heads. Max learned to move on with his life, and we feel Ginger would surely approve.

Each day, I read and try to respond to multiple posts telling the Facebook community of the loss of a dear loved one. All of these loses are heartbreaking, and a few are unexplainably tragic. Friends pour their hearts out to the people they know will understand their pain. Their great loss is something that we all experience multiple times in our lives. Those of us who have felt that loss commiserate with the incapacitation that seems so horribly permanent at the time. We all pray for the broken spirits that someday, somehow, they will learn to live again. And we are so very thankful that most of us eventually find that new relationship, that new forever friend, that new cuddly baby to share our love with. Someday we all will feel that bond again, and we will say to that special someone in our life, “I Got You Babe!”

 

This Is Us

I decided this morning to take a little time to assess the residents of the sanctuary. So much of our time is devoted to the medical needs of our babies that I like to step back once in awhile and look at the other aspects of what makes our pack the unique group of babies that they truly are. Any assessment must include medical needs but there are so many other characteristics that provide the variety of babies we live with and love.

Often I am asked, “Where do all your babies come from?” Backgrounds of our dogs is somthing that Rick and I often ponder. The backgrounds can tell us so much about what our little guys need, and they can help us understand who they are. Currently there are 56 dogs residing here at the sanctuary. 21 of those babies came to us from a shelter somewhere in Texas or surrounding states. 18 of our babies came to us directly from an owner. The reasons for these dogs being relinquished varies as much as the owners. Only one of our current dogs came directly from a breeder, and one of our babies was a birthday gift for Rick years ago. That leaves 15 of our residents that came to us directly off the streets. Rick picked up quite a few of these babies himself over the years, and a few came from people who found a dog on the streets and brought them to us so they would not be exposed to a shelter. We almost never know the entire background of any of our babies, but so often their behavior and their health status tells us what we really need to know.

We concentrate our efforts here at the sanctuary on rescuing Dachshunds. But because our babies come from so many different situations we often find ourselves with babies that are not Dachshunds. Currently we have 29 Dachshunds, 4 German Shepherds, 9 Chihuahuas, and 14 mix breeds. Some of our mixed breeds have some Dachshund blood in their veins, and their attitudes will attest to that heritage. The Chihuahua is one of the breeds that makes up a huge number of the dogs in need in our area, and many of our shelters have more Chihuahuas than any other breed. German Shepherd dogs were a huge part of my childhood and I have rescued all four of our shepherds myself.

While we do not decide from the sex of a dog whether we can take them into our care, life has a way of balancing things out. We currently have 29 males living at our sanctuary, and 27 females. The one area where we do consider the sex of the dog is when we decide which pack they will do best in. All of our dogs are altered immediately but as we all know some males will forever remain more dominant. Bossy females are also part of our decision on where one of our babies will reside. And occasionally we are forced to rethink a decision in this area as we have underestimated the dominant or bossy traits of a particular dog.

Several other factors can be even more important when we decide which area of the sanctuary a new baby will join. We have 14 babies that have special needs, such as missing limbs, blindness, severe arthritis, dementia, etc. Many of these babies need lots of extra supervision and that determines where they will be placed. Only 2 of our babies have special dietary needs and it is obviously much easier for me for them to reside with the kitchen pack. Daily medications are given to 15 dogs here at the sanctuary and these babies are spread out over the sanctuary as are their medicines. Another 13 of our residents are bonded with another resident here at the sanctuary and of course those babies are always placed in the same area as their bonded partner. 9 of our current residents are adoptable and because they are normally short-term residents we put them where there is an empty spot if possible.

Because our mission concentrates on the senior babies in need we have 23 dogs currently that are over ten years old. Dexter is the oldest baby here and he is 18 years old. 27 of our residents are between six and ten years old. Some of these babies are older than their years because of the hard life they have lived. The babies of the sanctuary which are under five years only make up 6 of our pack. We have 3 dogs that are only two years old. Two of these babies are large mixed breeds that Rick pulled off the streets, and one is a Chihuahua who is on our adoptable list.

Among our babies that need daily meds there is one statitistic that surprises me. We currently have 8 babies that take daily thyroid medications. I’m not sure why the occurrence of thyroid problems seems to be so large in our dogs, but all of our babies that need these meds are seniors. Currently in addition to the thyroid meds, we treat 2 dogs everyday for seizures, 1 for diabetes, 1 for severe acid reflux, 1 for recurring eye pain, 1 for IVDD, 1 for severe obsessive tendencies, and 1 for aggression. Some of our dogs that require medication fit into more than one category of medication, Trooper for example takes two daily shots of insulin for his diabetes but also requires thyroid medication.

While these statistics are interesting for us to examine, Rick and I are well aware of the chances of these numbers changing before the week is out. Dogs will get adopted, dogs will join us here at the sanctuary, others will be diagnosed with new medical needs, and a few may overcome their need for medication. And sadly because of the nature of our pack we face a higher risk of one of our babies traveling over the Rainbow Bridge.

The things that remain constant from year to year is that there will always be more babies than we have room for. There will always be more vet work than we can afford to pay for in any given month. There will always be babies that would flourish in a home of their own, but those homes are sometimes hard to find because of the nature of these characteristics. Every day I receive a phone call or an email from someone who is looking for a Dachshund puppy. I don’t blame these people because we all know there is nothing cuter than a little, floppy eared Dachshund puppy. Every once in awhile I get an application for an older baby because someone fell in love with their little silver face, and that is reason for celebration. Only twice in our almost 17 years of running our sanctuary have we received an application for bonded seniors. The commitment there is huge and very few people are in a position to make that leap. That reality is unfortunate but understandable.

Rick’s days here at the sanctuary start out at 6am when Trooper barks for his breakfast and then needs his shot. My days end at around 1am when I walk thru our sanctuary covering up babies, adding logs to the wood burning stove in the doggie room, and making certain that all babies are safe and sound for the night. Each night we both pray for the strength and support to make it through tomorrow. Thankfully, that prayer is always answered. This is our life, and This Is Us.