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!

Apples and Oranges?


Apples and oranges are the same in that they are both fruit. Yet they are very different when you get under the skin. The same analogy applies to rescue groups and sanctuaries. The Promised Land Dachshund Sanctuary is a little bit apple, but mostly orange. By that I mean we are in fact rescuers, but we are more of a sanctuary than anything else. To explain what I mean I need to go back a bit.

In the beginning of the sanctuary in July of 2001 we did a lot of rescuing, and we adopted out a lot of dogs. We worked with different rescue groups across the state of Texas, and they helped us place our young, healthy, adoptable rescues. In turn we helped them out by taking their senior and special needs dogs that were unlikely to be adopted. We also had a large website with adoptable dogs presented to the public for adoption. This process continued for four years.

In August of 2005 when I became ill, we had to discontinue our official rescue status. We took down our beautiful web site and stopped taking in dogs from other rescue groups. At the time we had 31 permanent residents of the sanctuary. We cared for those dogs just like we always had. And as fate demanded we rescued other dogs here and there that we found on the streets, or pulled from a local shelter. We did not have a website or any other public access, so those dogs became part of our permanent pack. Sadly, we also lost some senior dogs during these years. We did not conduct any fund raising activities during that period of time. Rick worked hard to pay all the bills to care for our pack, and we managed just fine. I regained my health in 2008 and life was good for us all.

Right after Christmas 2015 I began to write my book, “The Promised Land Dachshund Sanctuary”. Then in February 2016 Rick lost his job when the oilfield in our area took a serious downturn. At that point we knew we needed to do something to help keep the sanctuary going. We were very blessed when so many wonderful people on Facebook helped finance the publishing of my book, purchased the book, and donated to our sanctuary.

We felt we had the wind at our backs, and we began to actively rescue again. We have adopted out quite a few dogs since then, and we have also added to the number of permanent residents at our sanctuary. As most of you are aware, we are averaging 40 – 43 dogs here now. The largest percentage of those dogs were already residents at the sanctuary before we resumed our official rescue status.

One of the most frequently asked questions in my email and messages is, “Why do you have so many dogs, but you only have a few available for adoption?” The answer is very simple; some of our dogs have been with us for over five years. We could never consider letting them go, and would never even dream of turning their world upside down by allowing them to leave the home they have come to love. We are bonded to them and they to us.

Regular rescue groups (apples) save many dogs across this country. They place every one of those dogs up for adoption and work miracles at placing them in homes. But once in awhile they come across a dog or a pair of bonded dogs that they cannot place. That is where the sanctuaries (oranges) come in. They provide a permanent home for these babies where they can be safe and secure to live out their lives in peace.

The Promised Land Dachshund Sanctuary is an orange with apple skin. On the surface, we rescue a few dogs here and there. We try our best to find wonderful homes for those dogs as well a few rescued by our friend, veterinarian, and supporter Doc Jess. But our purpose in the nationwide army of people that give their hearts, their efforts, their money, and their tears to saving dogs in need, is a to be a sanctuary. That is what we are best at, and that is what we feel we have been called to do.

A healthy diet will probably include apples and oranges. A successful rescue community will include rescuers, fosters, transporters, advocates, and sanctuaries. Rick and I rescue and transport as well as advocate for dogs in need. But what we really do is run a sanctuary, The Promised Land Dachshund Sanctuary.

Quilt Raffle


We are raffling off this quilt during the Fall Open House to raise money for improvements to our sanctuary. The pattern is titled “Foreshadowing” and was designed by our daughter Jessica JE Smith. The quilt was pieced and quilted by me. It measures 68″ square and is made of the finest quilt fabrics. Tickets for the raffle are $10 each and can be purchased here on my blog thru the donate button, or by sending money to, or by sending check or money order to The Promised Land, PO Box 826, Gardendale, TX 79758.

The drawing is on Nov. 5th at 6pm so get your tickets purchased right away. Please make a note on your donation that you are purchasing quilt raffle tickets, and make sure I have a current address for you. I will post raffle #’s on our Facebook page under the Quilt Raffle thread that contains this picture of the quilt. We will also post a video of one of the kiddos at the Open House doing the drawing. You do not have to be present at the Open House to win. I will ship the quilt to the winner if need be.

Good luck everyone!!!


Who Speaks for the Dogs?

Over the years we have rescued quite a few dogs from backyard breeders and puppymills. I have written about the over-population of dogs in our country, and have advocated for spay and neuter programs nationwide. None of those efforts will curb the tide of over-population, however, because the breeders and the puppymills continue to produce millions of dogs each year.

I have talked with some backyard breeders that argue that their genetic line of dogs is superior to the “common” dogs of that breed, and therefore their breeding is actually good for the canine population. Some breeders claim that their dogs are the best dogs to train for companion and assist dogs. But I have witnessed many programs that pull dogs from shelters and train them to be excellent companion or assist dogs. And we have cared for many “common” pure bred dogs that were stunning in their conformation and coat. So the argument that breeders are good for the canine population falls on deaf ears where I am concerned.

So who regulates these breeders? The answer to that question surprised me. In at least ten states there are NO laws regarding the breeding of dogs. No license is required and no inspections of facilities are ever performed. In Texas, breeders are required to have a license. They are also required to undergo inspections every eighteen months. But I have seen with my own eyes how inadequate that regulation is.

Most of these breeders register their dogs with the AKC (American Kennel Club). So I did some research on the regulations required to register dogs with the AKC and I was horrified at what I found. The AKC has long billed itself as “The Dog’s Champion”. They have a committee that is tasked with inspecting large breeders and puppymills. But their inspections are kept private and are very sparse in nature. I read one report about a breeder in North Carolina that had passed their AKC inspection. But shortly after that they were busted and charged with animal cruelty because their dogs were either standing on 5 inches of packed feces, or stacked in wire crates where they urinated and defecated on the dogs below them.

I read a long list of proposed regulatory bills that the AKC fought hard to defeat. One example is a piece of legislation that requires puppy producers to adhere to basic care standards, such as regular feeding, cleaning, minimum space requirements, safe housing, and basic veterinarian care. One case involved an ordinance in Shelby County, Tennessee that would prevent dogs from being left in hot cars for more than an hour. The AKC article arguing against that ordinance called it unwarranted. A proposed USDA rule that would require breeders to provide six inches of space for a dog to turn around and lie down is being lobbied against by the AKC as being too burdensome. And they fought against a bill in three states that would prevent breeders from debarking their own dogs. We rescued a dog that had been debarked by its owner and he ended up with a broken jaw!

Why isn’t the AKC standing up for the welfare of our precious canine friends. The answer, as usual, is money. When they proposed in 1996 to put more restrictions on large breeders, many puppymills boycotted the AKC and started their own registries of purebred dogs. In 2011 the AKC revenue reached $59.5 million. $22.8 million of that came from registrations of litters and individual puppies. When the AKC saw their bank accounts decreasing they gave in to the puppymills. In fact they are now “platinum sponsors” of a group called the Missouri Pet Breeders Association, which is one of the organizations that boycotted the AKC for trying to crack down on puppymills.

So what exactly has the AKC done for the dogs registered with them. They have changed the criteria that make a beautiful dog a “winning” dog. They have established conformation standards that set a benchmark for traits that are extremely harmful to our dogs. These changes include shorter snouts on Pugs that produce dogs that can barely breath, smaller heads on Cavalier King Charles Spaniels that cause at least one third of that breed to suffer with syringomyelia which causes the dogs extreme pain because their brains don’t have enough room to grow. And we are all familiar with the double dapple Dachshund who carry beautiful coats but most often suffer with severe genetic problems.

I was asked a few days ago why I can’t report a breeder that is breeding nine year old females. My answer was that they were not doing anything against the law. And sadly, that is in fact the case across this country. The states that do regulate breeders don’t regulate things such as ages of breedable dogs. And now I know that the AKC, which I believed were advocates for dogs across this country, is only concerned about their bank accounts.

There are two answers to this situation in my mind. We must research and know what the laws for breeders are in our states, and we have to impress on our state representatives that we want this situation changed. And perhaps even more importantly we must spread the word that the AKC is not acting in the best interest of the dogs we all love. The public in general must be educated to stop seeing AKC papers as a sign of a “quality” dog. We all know what a quality dog is and it has nothing to do with any paperwork in our files!


Dangers in the Dark


When Rick and I first moved to Gardendale in 1984 we loved so many things about our new country home. The brick fence around the backyard was one of our favorite features. It created a safe place for our dogs to enjoy the sunshine and country air. That fence has not only kept our dogs safe from wandering, it has kept them safe from predators. Last night that safety was breached for the first time in 32 years and the consequence was disastrous.

Everyone here at the sanctuary had enjoyed a quiet Saturday afternoon. We had a short rain shower and then a cool evening. The air was crisp, clean, and cool. Shortly before dark, as is my routine, I went out back and gathered everyone inside the porch and closed the door for the night. Of course our dogs have access to a doggy door to go in and out, but many of our seniors enjoy settling in on their favorite beds at dusk. They know I will be checking on each of them, straightening blankets and beds for the night, and covering up a few of the more fragile seniors. Last night that routine played out like every other night, and I began to make dinner and pass out the night time meds. Rick went about his evening chores which include putting his horses in the corral and spending some time with some of our larger dogs who live outside the perimeter of our back fence.

Around 8:00 pm the dogs all over the sanctuary began to bark. Nothing new there. Horses and their riders wander by, skunks can be detected in the breeze, and the rabbits get active in the pasture. All these things cause our pack to bark and pronounce their presence behind the safety of our fence. So we pay little attention to what has become the song of our existence around here. But something was different last night, and our dogs knew long before Rick and I did that danger was present.

When the barking didn’t calm down within a few minutes Rick and I began to check on everyone, and Rick drove the property shining his flash light into the darkness. I fussed about the front porch lights being burnt out and tried to calm my shepherds without being aware of what they were trying to tell me. Rick soon came through the front door and found me watching the dogs on the back porch barking with an unusual fervor. We both stepped out into the enclosed porch and found Max with blood on his back hip. Striker continued to raise his voice and charge at the closed back door.

So we took our flash lights out into the yard and Rick saw three large black shapes run behind our back fence. He screamed at them to scare them off and we immediately started to frantically count heads on the back porch. Everyone was there except for Ginger, Max’s mom. We checked under each blanket on the porch, and when we still could not locate Ginger we walked the yard. We found her lifeless body in the darkness of our previously safe yard.

Rick ran for his pistol and searched the area around our home and shop building while I wrapped Ginger in her blanket, and turned my attention to her son Max. I placed him in a feeding kennel and cleaned the blood off his back end. I found six puncture wounds and one tear in his hide about an inch long. He was obviously in shock and I began to administer first aid.

The next half hour or so are somewhat of a blur for us both but we managed to lock the doggie doors all over the sanctuary to insure everyone was secure within the confines of our home. We counted heads numerous times in an attempt to quell our fear. I gave Max something for pain and an antibiotic. I also sprayed his wounds with an antiseptic all the while trying to maintain a calmness that would benefit the dogs but was elusive to say the least.

Our night was long and full of grief for our sweet lady, Ginger. Max is doing as well as can be expected this morning and I have received instructions from Doc Jess on his care. Just within the last hour Rick’s brother who lives 1/2 mile from us had to fend off an attack from these dogs with a pipe. They also jumped on another dog down the road from him. Rick and his brother are tracking them now while we wait for the Sheriff and animal control. All of our sanctuary dogs are still locked safely within the walls of our home. There are actually four dogs in this roaming gang and we will not rest until they have been dealt with.

Rick and I have both spent the last sixteen hours trying to figure out how to restore the security that was shattered last night. Our dogs have all been as upset as we are, and no one got a good night’s sleep. Rick and I spent several hours on the back porch holding and loving on each of our babies. Finally around midnight they began to settle down, Rick and I did not fare as well.

In our 32 years here in this home we have NEVER had a predator get into our yard. We are now considering, very seriously, extending the height of our back fence by several feet. Money will no doubt be an issue as brick fences don’t come cheap, but the security of our fragile dogs will now take priority over everything else.

RIP sweet Ginger. You are now whole and without pain. Please know that we will care for your brave son to the best of our abilities. He, no doubt, tried to rescue you and was sadly unsuccessful. We will, however, succeed in returning our sanctuary to the fear free environment that we have worked so hard to achieve. We will miss you and we will never forget your sacrifice.