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.


Have We Met?


I’m sure most of you have had a deja vu moment when a place, a smell, or a sequence of small events made you feel as if you were re-living a memory from your past. After 16 years rescuing Dachshunds, Rick and I have experienced some very unique personalities. We have loved quiet dogs, loud dogs, playful dogs, grouchy dogs, lazy dogs, and over-achievers. Each and every one has left an indelible mark on our hearts and in our minds. I won’t pretend that we remember every dog and all their characteristics. But the ones that lived the remainder of their lives here with us, whether that was one year or ten years are so easily brought to the forefront of our minds.

Dudley was one of the first five dogs we rescued when we opened our sanctuary in 2001. He was an older Dachshund gentleman that walked with his head high and his chest out. His entire being exuded pride and a sense of order to life. Dudley soon became known as Deputy Dudley Doright as he was the keeper of the rules. Dudley was the judge of when some of the younger dogs were getting too rowdy, and he put a stop to it by charging into the fray and bouncing his big chest off the bodies of the ruffians in our pack. Dudley’s will was respected, and while he was not always successful at getting the younger dogs to settle down, he was almost always triumphant in getting them to move their rough-housing to a different area of the yard.

Earlier this year we rescued a little guy named Gil. We lengthened his name to Gilbert because it just seemed to fit him. He often lays on a big pillow under a table in the bedroom, and he doesn’t have much trouble getting any previous occupants to give way to his desire to be on that pillow. Last week while Rick and I sat on the bed loving on the babies, I watched Gilbert jump off his pillow, run to the middle of a wrestling match between three of our younger dogs, and growl until their fun moved to the other room.  Gilbert is not a Dachshund. His coat is white and long. His nose is stubby and his body is short. But for just a brief second our Deputy Dudley Doright was standing right in front of me.

Rickashay came to us in 2002 from Houston. He was estimated to be about 16 years old, and his back legs were stiff with arthritis.  His grey face and cloudy eyes masked the spunk that this old man had inside. He waddled across the yard with his nose to the ground, using the strongest sense he had left. Rickashay barked at me sometimes for hours. I would help him get to the bed I thought he wanted just to watch him walk away as soon as I left him there. He barked at me until I helped him get up on the porch, and he immediately walked right back into the yard. He barked at me from the rug in the kitchen while I did the dishes, and his little front feet came off the ground as if he were putting an exclamation mark behind his demands. He often stood in front of the floor length mirror in the bathroom barking at the dog just out of his reach. Rickashay was gentle and fragile, but you could not tell that from his bark.

When Trooper arrived at the sanctuary in September of last year he immediately began to make himself heard. In the beginning he would only bark at me when he was ready for his scrambled egg dinner. But as time goes by and Trooper learns how powerful his bark is, he uses it for everything. He uses it to call me when he has gotten behind a door and wants me to rescue him. He uses it when he wants out of his bed, and then again only minutes later when he wants back into his bed. Obviously, Trooper gets what Trooper wants. Rick and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Last night as Rick and I sat on the bed surrounded by dogs, Trooper made his way into the bathroom and stood in front of the floor length mirror. And then, you guessed it, he barked at me. His little front feet came right off the ground and his reflection in the mirror for one wink of an eye was Rickashay coming back to me after all those years.

Andre’ was our first official rescue in July of 2001. He was young and had been on the streets for long enough for his coat to be dull and dry, and his eyes to be sunken and sad. We knew immediately that Andre’ would spend his entire life with us here at the sanctuary. He was neither senior nor special needs, but he was our Alpha Male and we would never part with him. A few months after Andre’ arrived, our sanctuary had filled up with other babies. One evening when a thunder storm approached from the west, all of our other dogs rushed thru the doggie door to get into a bed or under a blanket. As I looked out the kitchen window Andre’ stood in the middle of the yard with his nose high in the air as if he was telling the storm that he was Andre’ Alpha Male, and he was not afraid. Some of our dogs are more afraid of the thunder than others, but Andre’ was the only one that challenged the thunder and lightening head on.

Mr. Gibbs came to us from a breeding farm and he was one of the most frightened little guys we had ever rescued. It was weeks before Rick could pick him up without having to corner him, and even longer before I could touch him at all. After a year here at the sanctuary, Mr. Gibbs is friendly and approachable. He runs with the pack and he seeks out the love and attention that we are more than willing to give. One evening a few months ago I noticed after a little rain shower that Mr. Gibbs was soaking wet. I was astonished as most of our babies would not even consider going outside if the grass was wet, much less if it was actually raining. We received more rain this summer than we normally do, and on several occasions I noticed again that Mr. Gibbs was soaking wet after a shower. One evening a few weeks ago we had a particularly loud thunder storm moving overhead, and I was busy covering up babies that wanted to hide from the noise. I walked past the kitchen window and there in the middle of the yard with his head to the sky stood Mr. Gibbs. As one huge strike of lightening lit up the sky I saw a flash of our Andre’ Alpha Male standing in the yard challenging the storm.

The continuity of our experiences with our babies is heartwarming for me. To know that one baby we have now can bring back the feelings we had for one from long ago makes our circle complete. They are all so unique and their personalities are quite individualized but for one brief moment here and there I can see my babies that have passed in my babies that are still here.  So now when a new rescue comes to the sanctuary I look into their eyes and ask them, “Have we met?”




Sanctuary or Not?

Connie in the yard

When we opened our sanctuary in July of 2001 we had no knowledge of any other sanctuaries that were established for senior and special needs dogs. No doubt there were some around, but not in our area. Now there are several that we know of, and we are thrilled for the babies that receive the care they need in those sanctuaries. The supply of senior and special needs dogs needing a place to live out their lives is staggering.

This time of year the numbers of dogs needing rescue blows us away. We have 8 or 9 dogs listed on Petfinder as available for adoption. Most of those babies are seniors and several of them are bonded to another baby that must be adopted together. Only once in 16 years have I received an application for bonded seniors and that was earlier this year. And if those seniors take daily medications, their chances of finding a home of their own away from the sanctuary are zero (from our experience). So when we open our hearts and our home to these bonded seniors who have spent their entire lives together, we know they are here to stay. We, obviously, don’t have a problem with that as many of our babies are in that position.

A few days ago I checked on Petfinder to see how many Dachshund or Dachshund mixes were listed needing homes in Texas. The number made me question myself so I checked and double checked to make sure I had entered the correct criteria. There are 3,998 Dachshund or Dachshund mixes in Texas searching for a home right now! Let that sink in for a minute, and remember those are just the Dachshund and Dachshund mixes in Texas. That does not include the other hundreds of breeds that find themselves homeless in our country. That does not include many shelters and some rescues that do not use that site to get their dogs into the public eye. How much attention do you think my seniors and especially my bonded seniors will get in a field of dogs that large?

Any type of rescue deals with many of the same problems that we do; overcrowding, under-funding, lack of foster homes, and having to pick and choose which babies we can help. Every week I am faced with heart-wrenching decisions on several dogs who need help. Someone asked me the other day how many babies are in our sanctuary right now that don’t really need to be here. Admittedly, we have some younger dogs, that we rescued off our streets years ago, that would have been adoptable. But all of those babies have been with us for years, and it would be inconceivable for us to uproot them now and send them to another home. All of those babies received excellent vet care, a safe warm bed, good quality food, and all our love. We spent 11 years caring for these babies. We paid all the vet and feed bills ourselves, we cradled them when they were frightened after being dumped on the streets, and we held them through the night when they were ill. They are permanent residents of the sanctuary, and at this point they certainly need us.

With that being said, there are seniors in our sanctuary that would make wonderful pets for the right family. When we first opened our doors no one ever applied for a senior dog. At that time we received and still do receive lots of inquiries about puppies or young dogs. And of course we get the inquiries that want to insure that a dog from our sanctuary would be perfectly house trained, get along well with children of all ages, accept cats as friends, and be in perfect health. They are looking for the perfect turn-key pet. I’ve not met many of those! Now we get the occasional application for seniors and we are thrilled when we are able to place a senior in a wonderful home. But we have never had a dog that I would guarantee wouldn’t have an accident in the house after being moved to a new environment. We have never had a dog that I would guarantee wouldn’t snap at a unruly child, or be frightened by something in their new environment. In that context I would have to say that there are no seniors here that didn’t need us, or someone like us, willing to accept them, vet them, love them, and prove to them they are safe.

Sanctuaries, unfortunately, are necessary. But they are often left out of some of the benefits available to regular rescue groups. In the last few months we have been turned down by Petsmart and Petco for the programs they have to help homeless dogs. WHY?? It is not because we don’t have the credentials. It is not because we don’t have proof that every single one of our babies receives the best of vet care. And it is not because we don’t provide a necessary service for the MOST needy of the homeless dogs in our society. It is because they don’t think we do enough to find homes for ALL of our babies. So if we take a 14 year old dog from a woman who is going into Hospice Care and wants to make sure her baby is looked after for the rest of his life, we are expected to calm that baby down, suffer with him while he grieves, bring his vet work up to date, help him relax and began to enjoy his life again, and then we are expected to uproot him and put him in another home so he can start that process all over again. Not going to happen! Not even if it means we never receive the support from the big dollar pet companies that pick and choose who to help.

Don’t misunderstand my point here. With the exception of one group that I personally dealt with and a few others that I learned of through trusted friends, all rescue groups deserve our admiration and support. The work they do is extremely important. Thousands of dogs would go unsaved just in the state of Texas each year were it not for these selfless individuals and groups. I applaud them all! And believe me, they are aware of the need for sanctuaries as much as we are. The big corporations that provide substantial support for our homeless animal population do not, however, extend their helping hands to sanctuaries. They are certainly free to decide who to help and who to exclude. Their reasons make me wonder if they are more interested in the number of dogs they have helped get adopted, rather than the number of dogs they have helped.

Adoption is not the best option for many babies that we deal with. Once in awhile we deal with a baby that is not a senior and is certainly not adoptable. Rowdy is a good example of that. He is a long-hair five year old Chihuahua that requires grooming on a regular basis. He came to us right before Christmas when his Mom had to be placed in assisted living. He barked at and snapped at Rick and I for weeks. Then he finally warmed up to me but became frantic if Rick tried to touch him. After months of showing him nothing but love and acceptance and some very well timed spoonfuls of peanut butter, Rowdy will now allow Rick to pick him up and love on him. Certainly we might have been able to place him in a female only home. But how long would it take for him to accept his new living environment? How abandoned would he feel by us? How worried would we be thinking everyday about whether he was snapping at someone, or refusing food, or isolating himself because he had trusted again and was then betrayed. Some will say it is not betrayal to place him in a wonderful home of his own. Ask him!

My final point on sanctuaries is that every one of us that loves dogs, and is even slightly aware of the over-population problem that they face, knows what we do is necessary. Every one of us cheers when a baby like our Trooper gets strong and healthy and even frisky again after the hurdles he had to climb. Every one of us nods our heads with approval when a pregnant dog like Stormy is rescued off the streets to have her litter in a safe place. Every one of us wishes that each and every dog had a home of their own with people that love them and protect them no matter what happens in their lives. And every one of us know how unlikely that is to happen in our lifetime.

So our reality is we can never help too many babies. We can never comfort and hold a trembling rescue too long. We can never spay or neuter too many dogs. We can never pour too many bowls of food. We can never provide too many safe beds for these babies. We can never pay the bills for too many dogs to have their nasty teeth cleaned and the infection cleared from their little bodies. We can, however, run out of assets to do what must be done.

That is where our faithful followers and all dog lovers must step up to help us make ends meet. No one dislikes asking for donations any more than I do. I cringe when I have to put up yet another video on social media asking for people to pull money from their pockets and send it to our babies. But I do it because I am surrounded by need. I am surrounded by babies that are now accustomed to having full bowls of food and heat in the winter. I do it because I have to turn down dogs every week that I just don’t have the space or the funds to help. I do it because this is what I was meant to do.

Every night I hope and pray that the means we need to accomplish our goals for the next day will be there. And this month I say Happy Sweet Sixteen to The Promised Land Dachshund Sanctuary. We can rest easy each night knowing we didn’t do everything that was needed but we did as much as we could!

Probiotic Pets

2017-05-09 20.02.49

Like most dog owners I struggle each day to keep my home as clean as I can. Some days here at the sanctuary it is a losing battle, but we manage to maintain a home we can be proud of. This morning I read an article concerning the microbiomes that our dogs bring with them everywhere they go. Microscopic bacteria, viruses, and fungi are everywhere in our environment, and our dogs can be an extremely plentiful source. Thinking about it makes me want to get out the bleach bottle. But according to some new studies being conducted in Europe many of these microbiomes can actually be beneficial.

Apparently, children that are raised around dogs, especially from birth develop stronger immune systems. They are exposed to these bacteria, and their bodies learn which are harmful and which are not. Amish children who are raised around all sorts of animals including farm animals have a lower chance of having asthma and allergies as they grow. Their immune systems grow stronger each day as they fight off the harmful germs and learn to accept the beneficial germs.

Years ago when we first moved to the country I tried to keep my young children clean, most especially when their Granny was coming to visit. She seemed surprised each time to find my children in clean clothes with scrubbed faces. So one day she told me to let my babies get dirty. She said, “Let them roll in the dirt, let them get grime under their nails, and let them enjoy the land you and Rick are proud to own.” I thought I was a bad mother if someone saw my children with mud on their clothes or dirt in their ears. It was one of the many lessons my step-mom taught me that helped me relax and enjoy my babies. I now know that my children’s memories of growing up almost always include wonderful stories of things they did in the dirt, in the water puddles, and in our old barn with our dogs right by their sides. They have both enjoyed mostly healthy lives, and I like to think that dirt in their ears, and the dog hair on their clothes might have helped just a little to make that happen.

The article I read this morning confirmed what my children’s fabulous Granny taught me years ago. Now, when I look at my beautiful grandchildren, I smile when they have a smudge of dirt on their nose or grass stains on their knees. I know that their Great Granny must be smiling down on them from heaven as they grow strong and healthy.

We all know that no matter how often we bathe our dogs they are going to bring in things on their coats that we try not to think about. So I don’t worry too much about it, and with over forty dogs there is no danger of me bathing them too often. Rick and I rarely become ill, and I’m crediting our lives full of dogs with that health.

Our pets bring many other aspects of health into our lives that we might take for granted. One example of that is fresh in my mind. This last weekend a special lady named Susan came to the sanctuary to adopt one of our rescued puppies. Sadly, she lost her beloved fourteen year old dachshund, Lady Bug, just weeks ago. Susan brought her remaining dog, Cricket, with her to help pick out just the right puppy. Cricket has been grieving the loss of her older sister and had not been eating well or playing at all. While we played with the puppies my foster arrived to return Princess (pictured above) from her three week vacation in south Texas. When Susan first set eyes on Princess she began to cry. I was ill prepared for anything to upset Susan, and she quickly explained the similarities between Princess and her beloved Lady Bug.

We all sat and visited for awhile, and Susan held Princess while the tears rolled off her cheeks. I offered to take Princess to the other room to remove the reminder of painful thoughts, but Susan said no. She enjoyed loving on our little chubby baby in spite of the tears, and I would not deny her that. Princess was in her element and certainly enjoyed all the special attention.

While we visited, Cricket slowly began to play on the rug with several of the puppies and eventually with Princess too. I wondered what went thru her mind. Did Cricket realize how much her playing with Princess was a perfect picture of her playing with the sister she lost? I know the familiar scene was not lost on Susan, and I could feel her heart healing just a little while they played.

Soon Cricket and Susan picked out their puppy and went on their way. The next day I wondered about Cricket, Susan, and their new family member. Later that evening I received the sweetest text from Susan. She said Cricket was playing again with an enthusiasm that had not been seen for awhile, and that she had eaten her dinner with no hesitation. Cricket and the new puppy were busy forging a new friendship. This relationship will not replace the sweet memories of Lady Bug, but it is helping to heal the void in Cricket’s heart and in Susan’s. The emotional healing they both received from their visit with Princess, and the addition of the new rambunctious puppy to their lives touched us all.

We’ve all seen the wonderful pictures of therapy dogs helping our children, our wounded warriors, and our seniors as they put their pain aside if only for a little while. Many studies show what we all already know in our hearts, that our furbabies help keep us physically and emotionally healthy. They help restore our self-esteem after a hurtful rejection or failure. They help our seniors live in the present and give them a reason to remain as active as possible. They help us with our stress, our high blood pressure, and our heart disease. They help us with depression, physical injuries, autism, anxiety, and anti-social leanings. They also help us get the exercise we need, and they open doors to new friendships that make our lives more fulfilling.

Dogs bring lots of things into our homes and into our lives. Bacteria, fungi, viruses, and occasionally a dead bird (YIKES), along with any number of other things we would hope they would leave outside. But they also bring joy, understanding, acceptance, loyalty, and companionship. These things help to keep us all healthier and happier no matter what stage of life or state of health we are in. I’m sure many of you will agree with me when I say that I will happily mop up the mud footprints in my kitchen in exchange for the smile on my face and in my heart when my babies are cuddled up by my side.

Snakes in the Grass


Living in the desert of west Texas forces a person to be aware of the possibilities of rattlesnakes in the area. It took me 28 years after we moved to our country home to find the first one and only a week to find the second. I stepped on the first one in the dark one night and thank goodness he was as afraid of me as I was of him. The second one was discovered in our garage by my German Shepherd, Jake. One frantic squeal from me when I heard the rattle of his tail brought Jake immediately to my side. Luckily Rick was able to dispatch both snakes without much problem but the impression on my brain was deeply ingrained.

This time of year when the weather is turning warmer and the plants are all beginning to blossom makes us all want to be outside more. It also forces those of us who live in an area known to have dangerous snakes to be alert to the danger. They are coming out of their dens looking for food during the spring time and our canines babies can be especially vulnerable to the risk.

Our dogs are naturally curious and want to dig around rocks or sticks and explore the deep grass that no doubt carries a multitude of information for them about who has been in the area. Unfortunately, that puts them right in the path of a snake looking to find food or just sun itself on warm days. Having your baby on a leash is even more important this time of year so you can gain control of them quickly.

A vaccine that can be a life saver for our dogs is now available, and your vet can recommend when it is wise to use this vaccine to protect your dogs. The vaccine is most powerful about four weeks after the shot so timing can be very important. The effects of the vaccine can wear off after about six months so that is also a consideration for those of us who live in areas where the weather is warm for longer than a six month period. Dogs that are ill or have had previous reactions to vaccines might not be candidates for this vaccine. It is important to note that this vaccine does not make your dog completely safe from snake bites. It does reduce the pain and swelling they experience but does not change the fact that they need immediate vet care.

Other precautions that will help protect you and your babies is to keep the areas where you walk your dog or where your dog generally roams free of debris and brush. Wood piles are especially dangerous as they harbor rodents that draw in the snakes looking for food. Keeping grass cut is also very important as it minimizes the ability of the snake to remain hidden, and they do want to be hidden. It is also important to note that rattlesnakes are excellent swimmers and may appear in the water as a floating stick. So if your baby likes to fetch sticks thrown into a pond this is a risky time of year for that. In our area where rainfall is minimal this danger is less likely to affect our babies. But because water can be scarce, the likelihood that snakes will wander closer to humans is increased. The year I encountered two snakes was an exceptionally dry year for us and those snakes were no doubt looking for water.

If you do encounter a snake the best advice is to control your dog and back out of the area as quickly as possible. DUH!! Jake and I did not need to do any research to know that was the best plan. One thing important to mention here is that you need to watch your step backing away as you may encounter yet another snake that is close by. Be advised that rattlesnakes can strike silently so you may not receive a warning.

Hopefully, you have had the forethought to know which veterinarians in your area will be stocked with antivenin. If your dog gets bit in the neck area you should remove the collar or harness because swelling of the area is likely. Do not try to apply a tourniquet and DO NOT try to suck the venom out of the wound. Keep your dog as calm as possible and contact the vet while on the way to the clinic to prepare them for your arrival.

The most common victims of snakebites are young males who feel they can “handle” a snake with no problem. False “bravado” is dangerous! In our area the most common animal victims are outdoor cats. They seek out the rodents that are the favored food source for snakes. This puts them in closer proximity to the peril. The year I encountered two snakes we lost several barn cats to what we now fear might have been snake bites. That same spring our son and daughter-in-law who were living close by had a large rattle snake on their lighted porch one night. My daughter recommended they get a donkey as they can and will run snakes off your property. My son’s reaction was classic when he said, “Yes but then we are exchanging a snake problem for a donkey problem!”  My daughter replied, “Pick your poison, Bubba.”