Kess is a special massage client – they are all specially, really, but Kess is special because it seems to me that some dogs are just set up in life to have it rough. Kess is definitely one of those dogs.
Kess’ owner, Jan, has helped write this story because Kess’ story is long and complicated and it’s important to get the facts right.
So here goes…
Kess was adopted from Dogwatch, an adoption agency, in September 2007. Jan and husband Ian had ruled her out prior to visiting the kennels because they’d seen her on the website and thought she was a bit odd looking as well as having been returned once by an adoptive family. However, as they were leaving the kennels after not seeing the ‘right’ dog, they had to step over one lying in the reception entrance snoozing.
The dog suddenly rolled onto its back and indicated a tummy rub would be needed. “This was the dog we were not going to even consider and this was the beginning of our life with Kess.”
Although dogs had been members of their family before, Jan admits that everything they thought they knew about dogs had to go out the window. Living with Kess was very challenging time right from the word ‘go.’ Ian and Jan tried to return her to Dogwatch but, thankfully, they were full and couldn’t take her back.
This was a dog who had experienced a terrible and hard puppyhood.
For the next year, the family lived under siege until Kess settled in and developed more trust. They hired Els from Trainimals because she had already met Kess when she was in the kennels. She brought in another trainer for a second opinion. His assessment was that she was definitely not aggressive but anxious and only time and love was going to help.
This has proven very true.
Kess is a very curious dog and has a very high prey-drive. Like Superman, she can bounce over 6 foot fences with ease. Ian and Jan thought they had big fences before Kess arrived, but since then they have been heightened, strengthened and mostly double fenced.
Yet despite her hunting instincts, Kess proves that she is soft-hearted. On the odd occasion where her ‘hunting’ has been successful – a duckling and a mouse – she spat them out and watched as they ran off. Recently Jan had to pick her up and carry her past a wild rat who was sadly dying on the property and lay in the path Kess needed to take to enter the house.
Ian and Jan celebrated when Kess finally relaxed enough during a walk to pee outside her home ground – it took a year.
She is very reactive to other animals but she can socialise successfully in a controlled setting. Now and again a friend will visit with her dog and it is great fun watching the two dogs playing and then collapsing in an exhausted, happy heap afterwards.
One of the biggest challenges has been Kess’ strength when pulling on lead. She walks beside the couple beautifully until she sees something which makes her anxious. When I visit for massage sessions with Kess, there is a lovely framed photo of Kess on her first day home. Attached to the photo frame are two straightened pieces of thick steel. These were the metal pieces on collars where you clip on a lead or rope. Both of these were straightened at times when Kess had been temporarily tied up and seen something she wanted to investigate. Like Superman, Kess was no match for steel!
Healthwise, Kess came with a set of digestive problems. She wasn’t food motivated and was a nervous and picky eater. She developed severe colitis before Ian and Jan were finally able to work with their vet to find the right diet for her. which is turkey-based. Kess’ stomach is very sensitive and occasionally she still suffers reflux and diarrhoea.
She also had problems with her spine right from the start and a propensity to doing forward-rolls amongst the sand dunes at the beach did cause some issues early on. A naturopath prescribed remedies for digestion, joint health and anxiety.
In terms of reviewing her health history, I think Kess had a weakened immune system from her hard months as a neglected puppy which probably made her more vulnerable to disease and dysfunction.
Those early, developmental months, matter to a dog’s health and well-being and if a puppy is not well-cared for early, I believe in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM ) terms that a lot of life energy, or qi, is lost. These dogs are not balanced and this leaves their bodies vulnerable in terms of disease.
In Part 2, we hear that Kess’ health problems were far from over… and how Jan and Ian remain dedicated to her care.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand