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.”











The Legacy Fund


This picture was taken in 2002 about a year after the sanctuary opened. Rick and I felt like at the time that we could continue rescuing senior and special needs Dachshunds forever. But as we get a little older each year we have realized that there will come a time when we are unable to continue the work that we cherish so deeply. We hope that time is still a long way off, but life can be so very fragile.

Recently we have been over-run with babies that have come to us because their families could no longer care for them because of health needs or the passing of their primary care-giver. I wrote a blog several weeks ago about this very subject. While that blog helped us understand the need for providing for our babies once we are gone, it was aimed more at the families that support us. Our thoughts have now turned inward and we feel it is our obligation to begin to make plans for our sanctuary after Rick and I can no longer care for our babies. Now that is a daunting thought! Anyone know someone who can take in 40+ senior and special needs babies? We certainly don’t. And what a shame it would be for all of our work over the past 16 years to just end when something prevents us from going on. After much thought and discussion with each other and our Board of Directors we have come up with a plan that we hope can insure the legacy of The Promised Land Dachshund Sanctuary.

The first thought we had was finances. How can we possibly provide for our babies after we can no longer promote our sanctuary? Several times over the years we have had people discuss with us the possibility of leaving part of their estates to the sanctuary. Rick and I are very seriously considering rewriting our own wills to leave our land and home to the sanctuary. We believe this will require a Trust Fund of some kind to be set up that can manage the property we, and perhaps others, will decide to leave to the sanctuary. So we are seeking out the advice of an attorney to educate ourselves about the possibilities of making this happen. We want this Trust to be able to employ a director that would carry on the work that we began so many years ago.

But there remains one more big problem that must be addressed. Our home, which houses the sanctuary now can only hold so many babies. We have been over our limit of 40 dogs for several months and it does not appear as if we are going to be able to get back down below that limit. Babies just keep popping into our lives that need a secure home. For each senior, special needs, or bonded pair of babies we take in our number of permanent residents rises. Certainly some of these dogs can be adopted out to good homes. And we see a much greater interest in adopting these babies than what we saw in 2001 when we first began to rescue. But there are still many that garner no attention in the realm of adoption. Bonded pairs of seniors, seniors over 12 -13 years of age with major health issues, and hospice care dogs are not going to be adopted. What we feel we need to do is expand our capacity.

Our home sits on 18 acres of land that we own outright. So a place for an expanded facility is not a problem. What we need now is the funds to build another building with our sanctuary philosophies in mind. The major philosophy that we built our sanctuary on is the pack therapy theory. We believe our dogs live longer and happier lives if they not only have all the care and love they need from us, but from each other. So any new facility would have to be built with that in mind.

The sanctuary would also benefit from several other ideas that we have for our new facility. We need more isolation areas for new babies, especially the ones that come directly from a shelter or off of the streets. Our fragile seniors must be protected from every possibility of health risks that new dogs can bring. That starts at the simple problem of pests both external and internal, and expands to include things like kennel cough and parvo. We are also reaching a crisis of storage. The extremely generous following of the sanctuary has provided us with blankets, beds, toys, collars, and treats that are wonderful. But storing these supplies in the home we have lived in for 33 years is an ever increasing challenge.

A separate facility would also enable us to make more use of volunteers who want to come and help care for the dogs. We could have bigger and better Open House events, adoption events, and visitation from the many people who would truly love to be able to come and sit with or play with the dogs. This would definitely extend the time that Rick and I will be able to continue to oversee the everyday needs of the sanctuary.

Rick and I see the future of the sanctuary as an ever expanding refuge for the dogs that need our care. With a new, larger facility we would not have to say no so often to babies that may not have a lot of other options. Currently we are forced each week to pick and choose the babies that we can take in. What a heartbreaking situation that is! We would be able to assure the many people that have come to us hoping to secure a place for their dogs in a time of need that there is room for them at our sanctuary. We would, in fact, be able to secure the legacy of the sanctuary that we have devoted the last 16 years of our lives too.

We know that many of you love the fact that seniors dumped on the streets or in shelters can have a wonderful home again. We know that each week we hear from several followers who are hoping we have a spot for the baby in their sight that needs us desperately. We know that what we have built is worth preserving and that we cannot do it on our own.

So we have set up a savings account for the Legacy Fund. That savings will grow over time and eventually will have enough money to lay the foundation of our new facility. It will continue to grow until each and every part of the new Promised Land will be funded. I am going to seek out grants from PetSmart, Petco, and any other foundation or organization that might be interested in helping us make this new facility a reality. We hope that each of you will help us make this dream for the future of The Promised Land Dachshund Sanctuary come true. Please continue to donate to the care of our babies, and maybe you could add just a little each time and designate that for the Legacy Fund. Together we can make this happen!

There is a donation button on this page that can be used to donate to our everyday needs. It just takes another minute to indicate on that donation that a portion of your money should go into the Legacy Fund. I will set up a Legacy Fund counter on our Facebook page so anyone that is interested can tract the progress of that fund. Rick and I will begin to seek out estimates on the costs involved in building the facility that we dream of.





Canine PTSD

Over the years Rick and I have rescued many dogs that suffer with Canine PTSD. I found a quote from Dr. David J. Hellerstein that I feel verifies what we have discovered about how the brain works in dogs that have suffered abuse, neglect, or abandonment. He said, “PTSD, depression, and other psychiatric disorders cause what is called ‘negative neuroplasticity,’ including activation of abnormal circuitry in the brain, and strengthening of those circuits over time. They also cause shrinkage…and decreased connectivity between parts of the brain.” He believes that stress changes the brain physically in humans and in dogs.

Our experience tells us that post traumatic stress disorder is more common in dogs that people think. It doesn’t have to be caused from violence or physical abuse. We rescued a long haired beauty years ago that lost her front leg to a recliner incident. Her owners loved her dearly for the fourteen years of her life before the accident. But after the accident her entire demeanor changed. And after months of trying to help her recover emotionally, they gave her up. Perhaps watching her sadness and inability to interact with the family after having one of her front legs amputated was more than they could bear. Or perhaps they felt she carried a grudge against them. The sad truth of her story is that she suffered damage that her family did not understand how to deal with.

Many of us have heard the stories about soldiers that suffer from PTSD. Their symptoms can vary as much as their pasts. The one common ingredient seems to be fear. That fear manifests itself in many different forms in dogs as well. When a dog has suffered stress from abuse, abandonment, or even a one time incident, their reactions to that trauma can present a wide spectrum of behavior.

A perfect example of the differing reactions to the same trauma has been part of our lives for the last few weeks. On Christmas Eve we took in a family of Chihuahuas. Their “Mom” had to be placed in assisted living because of Alzheimer’s. Each of these dogs dealt with the stress of losing their mom and their home in very different ways. Dani (5 year old female) did not show any signs of trauma. She wanted to be loved and held from the first minute they arrived, and she could lay down in her bed and sleep like a baby. Howie (3 year old male) sought out attention to the point that he had a difficult time relaxing at all. And Rowdy (3 year old male) became increasingly aggressive over the first week after they arrived. They all suffered exactly the same stress factors, and they all reacted in different ways.

Because of this difference in reactions it can be difficult to know how to help these babies overcome their PTSD. Rick has always felt and my research seems to confirm that significant progress can be made by reprogramming the dog’s brain with affection and play. Sometimes that is obviously easier to do than others, but the goal is always positive, consistent interaction with the dog.

One of our recent puppy-mill rescues not only did not want us to touch him, he didn’t want any of our pack around him either. Most emotionally damaged dogs in our experience have drawn comfort from our pack. We count on that happening, and it is the basis of the success of our sanctuary. But this one baby was not having it. Rick spent quite a bit of time each day just getting this dog into a position where he could be picked up without trying to escape. But Rick was persistent, and today after two months here with us that baby seeks out attention from Rick and cuddles in the beds with several of our other babies.

The actual physical touch helps to reprogram the damaged circuits that Dr. Hellerstein was speaking about. Depending on the depth of the emotional damage, dogs can sometimes come out of their “depression” on their own. But in our experience, the benefits of the chemicals released in a dog’s brain when they are being loved on or played with far exceeds the likelihood that a dog will eventually get over it on their own.

A few times over the years we have needed the help of medication to help ease a dog’s mental pain long enough for us to connect to them physically. Rowdy from the group of Chihuahuas falls into that category. Because his aggression continued to escalate over the first days of his stay here with us, we were unable to handle him without causing him extreme distress, or getting bit ourselves. After only a few days on the meds we were able to hold Rowdy for short periods of time. Now after two weeks on the meds, he wants to be held. We are hopeful that once Rowdy settles in to his forever home his need for the meds will reduce.

We have had dogs that seemed exceptionally damaged come out of their shells very quickly, and we have had some that required months of physical love to begin to enjoy their lives again. And sadly we have had a few that nothing could repair. So when I am asked for advice on how to handle a shy, fearful dog I encourage people to take the steps necessary to get that baby in their laps. Scratch them, massage them, touch them everyday even if you have to corner them to pick them up. If this fails for a period of time then seek out medical help.

Lee Charles Kelley, a noted dog trainer in New York has written several wonderful articles on exercises, play activities, and behavior modification techniques that can help with the extreme cases. There are answers to the behavior issues our dogs suffer from, and we as owners and care givers should seek out those answers. We can be the therapists our babies need.




When I’m Gone – Feed Jake

A few days ago I received word from a family who had just made the heartbreaking decision to put their grandmother in an assisted care facility. The grandmother is suffering from Alzheimer’s and is not capable of caring for herself or her beloved pets any longer. These four Chihuahuas belonged to her, and no one in her family was in a position to care for them. So this family was also faced with the gut wrenching decision of what to do with the dogs that belonged to their grandmother.

Rick and I decided to take these babies into our sanctuary. These four little ones had few choices and very little chance of finding a loving home. So Rick and I are now in a position to do the impossible. Placing all four of these dogs in one home is not a realistic goal for their future. Goldie, the oldest of these four is 19 years old. She will remain here at the sanctuary as a permanent resident. The other three are between 3 and 5 years old and could be easily placed in forever homes one at a time.

But what about the bonds they share with each other? They have already lost the “Mom” and the home they knew. The prospect of them losing each other now is tragic. But bonded dogs are extremely difficult to place. We have had several bonded pairs up for adoption this year, and we have received NO applications for them. Also among our now permanent residents is a threesome of Dachshunds that came from the same home. I didn’t even advertise for them to be adopted together because I knew there was no chance of that happening. Now they are bonded to us and our pack, and we could not consider adopting them out individually.

So where does that leave us where these Chihuahuas are concerned? We basically have two choices. We can keep them here in the hopes that someday someone will be interested in having all three join their families. In the mean time, they get more and more attached to us, the other residents here at the sanctuary, and this new life that will be wonderful but difficult to accept in the short term. If it were to take many months or even years to find that home, how could we possibly put these dogs, our other dogs, and ourselves through that trauma? The answer to that question is we would not allow that to happen. The second choice is that we break them up now, find wonderful homes for them, and know that we did our best for them.

The sanctuary, obviously, only has so much room. Rick and I only have so much time and resources. If these babies stay here with us, the room we would have for the next senior or special needs dog is no longer available. Because we take the dogs that even most rescues can’t take, that means those future babies would be left without any chance of placement. Spliting this family up now, before they become bonded to us and our other residents is definitely the better (although not perfect) choice for us to make. Sometimes our goal of preventing any further heartbreak for the dogs that end up in our care, is impossible.

Many of our followers have begged us to keep these babies together. They know that is our policy and our goal for bonded dogs. But when the whole situation is spread out in front of them, would they still make the choice to keep these dogs together? Would they allow a blind, senior Dachshund in a shelter to be put down because we made the choice to keep these babies together no matter what? Rick and I don’t think anyone would make that choice, and we are forced to face the facts ourselves. These babies will have to be adopted out one at a time. They will no doubt suffer in the short-term from the loss of their siblings, but they will be in wonderful, loving homes. And the senior or special needs dogs that need the sanctuary in the future will have a place to live out their lives in comfort and love. That excruciating decision has now been made. This is a first for our sanctuary but will most likely not be the last time we have to face that decision.

Rick and I are working hard to insure a permanent place for all of our residents here at the sanctuary in the event we are unable to care for them ourselves. This has become priority one for us, and we owe it to our dogs to make the sanctuary function without us should the need arise. We would like to encourage everyone that reads this blog to reach out to your family and friends. Make arrangements for the animals in your care should you become unable to continue that care. Talk with your grandparents, your parents, and your children to work out plans for the babies that have enjoyed your love or the love of your senior family members. Make the plans and the hard decisions ahead of time so rescuers and sanctuaries don’t have to make those decisions when the need arises.

Find someone you trust to feed Jake – when you can no longer fulfill your obligation to do so.



Giant Leaps for Canine Care

docjessOver the last few days we have all spent lots of time with family and friends, talking about the things that we are thankful for. Rick and I are thankful for the many blessings we have received from above. We are, of course, thankful for each other and our combined devotion to the mission here at the sanctuary. Our families and our health are also very high on that list, along with the many people that continue to help us keep our dream alive. We are forever in debt to Doc Jess for her devotion to our babies. And certainly not least of all the things we give thanks for are our babies, our entertaining companions, our dogs.

So I was thinking about what our dogs have to be thankful for. They show their thanks to us each day with lots of kisses, tail wags, and playful activities. Although they don’t realize it, I believe if they could tell us what is in their minds they would be thankful for Doc Jess, as well as everyone that helps pay the bills to keep them safe.

That brought me to what Doc Jess must be thankful for concerning her passion to save animals of all species. I have done a little research into the advancements she now has access to that help her do more for all the critters she cares for.

I personally have witnessed, and have heard Doc Jess talk about the huge progress in pain management for animals. At one time several decades ago it was believed by many that pain management was unproductive for dogs. It was thought that if they didn’t feel pain they would move around too soon, and that would hinder their recovery rather than enhance it. We now know that dogs feel pain just like humans, and relief from that pain is very important to their care. The many medicines (Ketoprofen and Tramadol) that are now available in that arena are first on my list of advancements in veterinary care.

MRI technology was developed to benefit the medical care of humans but has proven extremely beneficial in the diagnosis and care of dogs with neurological, cardiac, orthopedic, and soft tissue issues. One obvious drawback to the use of MRIs in veterinarian practice is the fact that the patient must remain very still during the procedure thus requiring anesthesia. An additional problem is the tremendous expense incurred for an MRI. Ultrasounds, while not as powerful, are helping to fill the gap when MRI technology is unavailable or unaffordable. The potential for ultrasounds to become universally adopted by vets is a very exciting move forward in the care of our dogs.

Another exciting adaptation from human health science to animal care is the use of Laparoscopic procedures. This process involves a camera and light to be inserted in the thoracic cavity to allow the veterinarian to see inside the animal’s body. This is obviously less invasive than exploratory surgeries, and provides more specific information for the diagnosis and treatment than is possible with x-rays.

Stem cell therapy, cancer vaccines (for melanoma), laser therapy, pet supplements, probiotics, Palladia (new drug for treatment of mass cell tumors), water therapy, herbal therapy, arthritis medicines, rattlesnake vaccine, prosthetics, joint replacements, acupuncture, and even aroma therapy provide many new exciting avenues of advanced care for our babies.

The benefits of all of these evolutionary improvements flow through our trusted veterinarians to our animals, and to all of us who love our pets like family. Therefore, the lists of things we all have to be thankful for is longer than I realized a few days ago!