Category Archives: dog adoption

The Conversation

“Hey, Sox. We need to talk.”

‘bout what?

“About where this relationship is heading”

Whaddya mean?

“Well, you came here to stay as a foster dog last month.”

What’s foster?

“Foster means that I take care of you and teach you about being a pet, but you’re not mine.”

I’m not yours?

“No, but you did come to stay with me on a foster-to-adopt agreement.”

What’s adopt?

“Adopt is when I say that you should stay forever and become part of the family.”

I likes adopt

“Now, just checking. You want to be part of the family even though there are house rules?

Whaddya mean?

“So when I told you that you were naughty last night.  Do you know why?”

Why?

“Because you were hiking your leg and peeing in the hallway”

Oh

“And peeing inside is not acceptable.”

Oh

“Unless you are sick.  Are you sick?”

No, I’s not sick

“Then you have to agree to try harder about not peeing in the house.”

Okay.   But you pee in the house.

“What?  No I don’t.”

Yes you do.  On the shiny white chair.

“Sox, that’s a toilet.  I’m supposed to pee in it.  That’s where people pee.”

I think the shiny white chair is scary.

“Scary?  Is that why you come in every time I go to the toilet?”

Yes.  I worries about you there and think you need cuddles.

“No need to worry, Sox.  I can handle going to the toilet by myself.  But I think we are getting off track with this conversation…Do you like it here?”

Yes, but I no likes when you call me naughty.

“I only call you naughty when you are doing something that is not allowed.”

So if I no do things that are not allowed then you no call me naughty?

“That’s right.  I will call you A Good Boy.”

I is a Good Boy.

“Yes, Sox, I think you are a Good Boy.    I think you should stay and be my Little Boy.”

I’s not little.

“That’s true. You’re a big Greyhound. But if I adopt you, you’ll become My Little Boy.  Do you like the sound of that?”

Yup.  I be your Good Little Boy.

“Okay. Then I’ll sign the adoption papers and we can begin our life together.”  


I now make the official announcement that Sox has joined The Balanced Dog as my Little Boy and companion.  He is in training to be a massage demo dog, a café dog, and to like the water and waves at the beach. 

I look forward to sharing our adventures together.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Let me tell you about Rosie

Rosie is my foster dog; she arrived one month ago exactly, on 17 December 2021.

Rosie is an affectionate black greyhound who has had three unsuccessful adoption placements. You see, Rosie is profoundly deaf.

She was not born deaf, but she became deaf through ear infections – and what appears to be lots of them, or at least ones that had unsuccessful or no treatment. Her ear canals are so severely scarred that about the only sound she has reacted to was the high-pitched loud squeal of my burglar alarm which I set off accidentally last month.

But there is a lot more you need to know about Rosie to understand her

Rosie doesn’t know she is special needs. She simply lives in a world where she sees people’s lips move but no sound comes out. She is reluctant to make eye contact with new people and so can easily misread their intentions. She responds to emotional energy very well; she seems to know when someone is smiling and wants to give her a pat; I always ask them to allow her to come to them which works well.

When Izzy died, she certainly knew I was upset and came in for lots of cuddles and reassurance.

She isn’t so sure of people wearing masks because masks cover faces and Rosie needs faces to read the situation. I have been deliberately taking her places where she meets people in masks and where I am wearing mine. She even came with me to the drive-thru vaccination clinic when it was time for me to have my Covid-19 booster shot; she barked anxiously at the face outside the window.

Mask-wearing will be part of our lives for a while and Rosie needs to live successfully in a masked up world so I will continue exposing her in a controlled manner to mask-wearing people so she can become more confident. Today, for example, we went to the local SPCA op shop which welcomes pets. The shop attendants and the customers were all wearing masks. We didn’t have any issues.

Rosie has lots of energy. When the sun is up, so is she. Forget the advice that a greyhound is so placid that two, 20-minute walks per day are sufficient exercise. Rosie has been having two walks of at least 30-40 minutes each and cracks a good pace for the entire time. An hour’s long walk on the beach with greyhound Misty was not problem for her, either.

I gave Rosie a massage over the weekend (her first) and I can assure you that she has great muscle tone. For a girl who is now 6 years, 9 months old, she is in great shape!

Rosie would benefit from being adopted by a household with another dog who is well-settled and playful. Rosie likes to play (she has had several play dates and is enthusiastic about engaging with other dogs who are both off-lead and on-lead). A dog that could be Rosie’s mentor will give her someone to follow around and mimic. In my opinion, a chilled out dog who can teach Rosie the house rules will see her settle into a new adoptive home pretty quickly.

Meeting other dogs at the beach

Remember, though, that Rosie is deaf. She will always be deaf no matter how much training she receives. Rosie misses out on the low growls of dogs who are giving her a warning signal.

She doesn’t hear the children on the footpath who are coming from behind on scooters (startling her in the process). Whomever adopts Rosie needs to understand that they need to be her ears when they are out of the house – at all times. And when integrating into her new home, the dog:dog interactions will need to be supervised initially. Rosie doesn’t mean to be annoying, but she could be, in her enthusiasm to play.

Every greyhound needs a securely fenced section.

Rosie definitely needs one and always will. Off-lead exercise can only happen in securely fenced areas.

Rosie explores the section regularly throughout the day; the gate is always padlocked for added security

You may have heard that people who lose the their hearing seem to develop enhanced senses of touch, taste, smell, and sight. This is definitely the case with Rosie.

She is a sighthound. I can attest to the fact that Rosie triggers on all movement. So that is definitely cats, ducks, chickens, other birds, and rabbits. She also reacts to leaves, branches, pieces of rubbish and even my neighbour’s clothes on the line when they move in the breeze. Last week we were taking an afternoon walk along Papanui Road and the sunlight was reflecting off cars onto the ceiling of the shop walkway. Rosie startled at the reflections because it looked like something overhead was coming our way.

Consequently, it’s essential that anyone who walks Rosie does so with a firm grip of the leash and with it wrapped around their wrist. Always. And so that means that Rosie cannot be taken on walks by young members of an adoptive family. Adults only. Able-bodied ones, too. And please – a normal leash and not those horrible extension leads…

At my request, Rosie came with a lead that helps people know that she is a deaf dog. Her walking skills have improved considerably over the last month. She walks more calmly, mostly at my left side, although she will cross over the footpath when there is something interesting to investigate. Rosie is supposed to be a pet, not a competitive obedience dog and so I am happy to have her wander a bit. The important thing is that she has stopped tripping me up on walks with frantic zig-zagging in front of me.

If Rosie sees something of interest – like a neighbourhood cat – she will pull and rear up on her hind legs. Hold your ground and hold on tight. Rosie should always be walked in a harness for greater control and to avoid damage to her neck.

Rosie is a deep sleeper. All greyhounds sleep. Rosie sleeps more deeply than most. We know that dogs have a different sleep pattern than we do, but since Rosie cannot hear, it seems that she goes into a deep REM-like sleep more often. (This explains her energy levels when she’s awake – refreshed and ready to go!)

Greyhounds are known for their sleep startle – that sweet little greyhound can become a raving Cujo when wakened suddenly. In Rosie’s case, her risk of sleep startle is much greater. Therefore, I have developed a new habit of walking into a room with a good solid stomp of my foot. The vibrations will stir Rosie from her slumber.

The risk of sleep startle is another reason why Rosie cannot go to a home with small children, who are unlikely to remember the rules about engaging with a sleeping Rosie. Mature households only are needed as Rosie’s eventual adoptive family to keep everyone safe.

I mentioned earlier that Rosie is cuddly and affectionate. I have allowed her to sleep on my bed, particularly because she really wanted to snuggle and because she came one night to my bedroom at about 3 am when I was simply too tired to keep pushing her off the bed. Besides, I feel that since she has shown no interest in the sofa, she rightly deserves a chance to be a real pet greyhound and sleep on the bed.

Rosie is completely house-trained and she only barks when she is excited (such as when I am taking too much time to get dressed in the morning for our walk). I have had a pet cam running constantly for the last three weeks – she only whimpers a bit when I leave the house and then eventually settles on her bed for a deep sleep. She will sometimes go into the crate for a rest, but the crate is also strategically positioned so she can watch me in the kitchen from a safe distance.

In the interest of finding Rosie her forever home, I have begun working with Rosie on an essential cue – Look At Me. The Look At Me is the foundation for interacting with her handler so that she can then react to other visual cues which will be trained over time. I have already instituted her Come command, which is a vigourous tapping of my thigh.

We are perfecting her Look At Me and Come. Good things take time and I keep her training sessions short – only about 5-10 minutes each maximum. This ensures Rosie is set up for success. I am thoroughly happy to keep Rosie for as long as it takes until we find her the perfect match for her adoptive home and, in the meantime, we can continue our training and enjoy each other’s company.

Enquiries about adopting Rosie should be directed to Greyhounds as Pets.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Giving back, paying forward

Most small businesses like mine are approached on a regular basis to donate to fundraisers for animal welfare groups and charities. Sometimes, we have relationships with these groups and other times, they’ve never done business with us and we have to ascertain whether it is within our marketing budget to donate something and also whether that group shares our values.

There are many ways besides fundraisers that businesses can give back to their community.

In my business, I offer a loyalty card. After every five sessions of massage and physical therapy, the owner earns a free bag of our dog treats. Owners have the option, however, to donate the cost of their bag to a registered animal charity of their choice, although most leave the choice up to me. I rotate the donations.

Over the years, the business has given to:

Christchurch Bull Breed Rescue

Dogwatch Sanctuary Trust

Greyhounds as Pets

Pet Refuge

….to name a few.

Last week, I also offered to give massage to Liam, the assistance dog to young Sam Ward. Sam’s story appeared in the local paper because the little boy is in the final stages of aggressive Duchenne muscular dystrophy and his family are raising funds so they can fulfill his bucket list. Rather than giving back, I consider this my time to pay it forward, thanking those who have supported the business so I can give my time to others in need.

If you would like to donate to help Sam complete his bucket list, you can donate via Givealittle.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The first re-homing of laboratory beagles in Finland

The paper’s abstract begins “The fate of experimental animals represents an ethical dilemma and a public concern.” I would say that this is an understatement. But, researchers in Finland decided to re-home their laboratory Beagles once their work was completed and documented the process of helping the dogs to adjust to pet life.


The re-homing of laboratory dogs was the first of its kind in Finland. The re-homing process was started with months of practising basic pet dog skills with the dogs and by familiarising them with the world outside the laboratory.  

The practice period lasted from four to six months, depending on the dog.

“However, we found out that the socialisation time was not quite sufficient for all dogs; owners reported that some dogs continued to be timid and suffer from separation anxiety. The laboratory dog re-homing process would be smoother if in the future laboratory dog facilities separated out the defecation and rest areas, gave dogs access to an outside area and walked them outside on a leash,” says Docent Marianna Norring from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Helsinki.

The dogs had been living in packs of eight dogs for two to eight years in the University’s laboratory animal facilities, from where they had daily access to an enclosed outside space. They spent the nights in smaller groups of dogs.

At the University, the dogs had participated in both animal cognition and veterinary medical studies. The cognition research provided basic information on canine minds, and a new tranquilising agent suitable for dogs was developed in the veterinary medical study. The University of Helsinki does not currently have laboratory dogs.

The re-homing of laboratory dogs was implemented as a collaboration between SEY Animal Welfare Finland and the University of Helsinki. A large group of individuals participated in socialising the dogs and acquainting them with life outside the facility: animal caretakers, researchers, animal-rights campaigners and dog trainers. The aim was to take into account the individual characteristics of each dog when searching for a new home for them. Whenever possible, dogs were re-homed in pairs. Generally speaking, the new owners have been extremely happy about their new pets.

For the study, the dog re-homing process was monitored at the University for four years by interviewing the participants and collecting information from the new owners.  

Article:

Laura Hänninen and Marianna Norring, 2020, The First Rehoming of Laboratory Beagles in Finland: The Complete Process from Socialisation Training to Follow-up, Alternatives to Laboratory Animals (ATLA), Vol 48, Issue 3, 2020.

Source: University of Helsinki

Goodbye, Dumpling

DumplingIt is with almost unbearable sadness that I must share with you that we lost our beautiful soul Dumpling today.  She took a bad turn the past few days which turned out to be the result of a large mass in her abdomen.  At age 17+ we simply could not put her through any more testing and surgery.

When my wife first saw her picture on the Best Friends website, she fell in love immediately.  It was our hope that we could give a 10-year-old dog that was missing most of her teeth, had eye problems and was going through a second heart worm regimen, a couple of years enjoying the life every dog deserves.  It is our dream that she thrived for more than seven years because she was so happy here.

We know that the heartache will subside and are comforted in the knowledge that the joy and love she gave us will live with us forever.  So please give all those close to you an extra hug today, be they human, canine, feline or all manner of G-d’s creations.  Do it for you, do it for them, and today do it for Dumpling.

Kathleen thank you for always keeping her in your thoughts.  Give Izzy a hug from us.

Stuart 



In May 2012 during my first working visit to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah, I fell in love with Dumpling, a dog that had her fair share of health problems and hard times.  Because I lived in New Zealand, I was unable to adopt her.  I knew from the adoption website that Dumpling had been adopted and when I returned to the sanctuary the following year, I asked if the adoption staff would pass on my details to her new family so I could find out about her.

Thankfully, Stuart was happy to write to me with Dumpling updates; typically I would have an annual update each Christmas with a photo.  The family vet estimated her to be 10 when adopted.  During the course of her life with Stuart, she had to have an eye removed from a recurring infection but still loved to go for walks and take long naps during the day.

Yesterday, I got the email I knew was likely to come – Dumpling has passed.  But she proved something that is very important – rescue dogs are not their history – they are what they become in a loving home.  Dumpling recovered from heartworm and became a member of the family.  She was no longer the down-and-out dog found in a Texas landfill next to the bodies of her dead puppies.

I am very grateful that Stuart and his family were able to give her a long and happy life post-adoption and for their kindness in keeping me updated about her.

July 2013

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Doggy quote of the month for August

“The choice to adopt a pet is a big decision that comes with much responsibility but infinite return on the investment. It will undoubtedly change your life.”

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Patron of Mayhew animal welfare charity

Duchess Meghan with dog

Photo courtesy of the Royal Family Facebook page

At Kindness Ranch

Kindness Ranch Animal Sanctuary is a unique place, the only sanctuary in the United States that cares for animals used in research and laboratory facilities.  At this property, you’ll find horses, cows, sheep, pigs, cats and dogs.

The small team at Kindness, which is a fairly new sanctuary at only 12 years old (founded in 2006), work hard to care for the animals and maintain their large Wyoming property to the highest of standards.  Animals that can be rehabilitated are put up for adoption; the others will simply remain at the property with a secure and safe home for life.

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I have just finished a week of work with the dog care team at Kindness, discussing things like behavioral adjustment programs, enrichment, gait analysis, physical rehabilitation and senior dog care.    I also introduced them to the range of flower essences I use to support emotional health whilst working on training and rehab.

I chose to travel to Kindness Ranch because, for anyone who follows my blog, I often include items about research.  I’m a self-confessed science geek.  But I am not naive.  I know that much of the research which is published involves dogs as study subjects.  The life of a lab animal, in most cases, isn’t pretty.

The ranch is in remote Wyoming – Hartville to be exact with a permanent population of 69 people.  For this reason, if you’d like to visit Kindness (there are 4 guest yurts on the property which can be hired for your stay – and these are well-appointed and very comfortable), you need to book ahead.  The ranch is also a good place for a digital detox, too,  because the guest yurts do not have television and cell phone reception is patchy at best.  WiFi is available but is slower than most are used to and not suitable for streaming.

Dogs coming from a laboratory situation often have unique needs.  Most have never experienced grass under the feet, the sights and sounds of the home environment, and some will have healthcare issues that require attention before adoption is possible.  Many have never been house trained.  Their ages vary depending on how long they were used for study.

And while Beagles are the dogs most often associated with laboratory research, expect to see other breeds of dogs, too.  Larger breed dogs are often used by veterinary schools, for example, so students can learn blood draws, how to vaccinate, etc.  These dogs become living pin cushions and are not surprisingly fearful whenever a needle is presented.

I deliberately chose Kindness as a destination because of the special niche it holds in the animal rescue world.  It takes special people to liaise with laboratories and encourage them to release their animals rather than choosing to simply euthanize them (described as the ‘cost effective’ option).  Kindness walks a tightrope of sorts to ensure that the animals are given safe passage out of the lab and onto the sanctuary whilst maintaining the confidentiality of the labs.

And it also takes special people to live remotely and care for these  animals.

I hope you enjoy these photos of my time at Kindness and, if you believe in their mission, please consider making a donation.  Every bit helps.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Hank

Hank was the first dog to stay with me overnight in my yurt. Hank is an older boy who spent the first 7 or 8 years of his life in a laboratory. He’s a bit stiff, and has trouble with stairs (as many of the Beagles do).

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Hank in for a cuddle

One of Hank’s favourite pastimes is being held like a baby on your lap. He makes himself totally relaxed and floppy and will stay for as long as you like. It’s amazing how trusting these dogs can be given their treatment at the hands of others.

 

Rocky

Rocky is a big boy who doesn’t know his own strength (he needs more training about walking nicely on leash) and he’s afraid of men.  We suspect his life as a veterinary school practice animal meant that he didn’t have a positive relationship with a male lab assistant and/or vet students.  So we worked on setting up a system where the men on the ranch will visit and quietly enter and feed him high value treats. Handlers will praise Rocky when he is quiet and doesn’t bark and will start using a ‘click for quiet’ approach to clicker training.

Frieda

Frieda is a pit bull who loves to go to the dog park on the ranch, appropriately called the K9 Corral. She has good recall and knows most of her basic cues including sit and down. She’s very intelligent!

Gus

Gus is another senior Beagle used in pharmacokinetic studies for at least 7 years. (These studies introduce drugs and watch their effects on other organs in the body.) He’s a bit achy in the joints, too. Gabapentin and muscle relaxants prescribed by the vet have helped him a lot and his caregiver says that he is a different dog with the support of his meds.

 

Greyt Fashions

So to my regular readers, I’m sorry it’s been almost a week since my last posting.  That’s because I’ve been busy.  Really busy.

On Sunday, the culmination of 2 years of thoughts/ideas and 7 months of planning came to fruition in the form of Greyt Fashions, a fundraiser for greyhound adoption to support Greyhounds as Pets. This is the charity that matched Izzy and me back in 2014.  I aim to support dog adoption each year through fundraising, but this year has certainly topped all my previous efforts with $4994 raised in a single event.

The idea behind the show was simple:  highlight that greyhounds need clothes and let our volunteer owners show off their hounds in the clothing they had chosen for them.

Alongside the show, we had a silent auction and prize raffle of donated goods and services.  I was humbled by the number of sponsors which came on board at the first request.

It was an awesome day, and one that passed quite quickly for me.  Thankfully, the folks at Parker Photography also donated their services and were able to document the day for us.  More photos are expected on my Facebook page later this week as the photographers process and edit their photos.

I feel it is very important that local businesses give back to their communities in a tangible way.  I am in a lucky position to be able to devote some of my time in support of worthy causes and I would rather spend my time on these efforts than traditional ‘marketing.’

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

How many hounds needing a home?

Izzy of The Balanced Dog

All of the dogs I have had in my life have been adopted.

Our first family dog came from a no-kill shelter; our second from a supermarket notice board.  A local re-homing group, Dogwatch, facilitated my first adoption as an owner; my second dog, Daisy, came in a private adoption through word-of-mouth, and in 2014 Izzy, a greyhound adopted through the national adoption group Greyhounds as Pets, arrived on the scene.

Worldwide, there are more dogs that need homes than there are adoptive homes to care for them and this situation is no different for the greyhounds of New Zealand’s racing industry.

As of 2018, New Zealand is one of only eight territories in the world with a commercial greyhound racing industry.  The others in alphabetical order are Australia, Ireland, Macau, Mexico, United Kingdom, the United States (five states only), and Vietnam.

But many New Zealanders are unaware of the findings of  The Hansen Report, which was publicly released in the busy pre-Christmas period of December 2017.  Formally titled A Report to the NZ Racing Board on Welfare Issues Affecting Greyhound Racing New Zealand, the report was written by the Hon Rodney Hansen, QC.

I won’t go into all of the findings in this blog post (the report is 93 pages).  But the statistical analysis of the racing industry’s own data show that despite the efforts of all of the re-homing groups in the country combined, re-homing can’t deal with the influx of greyhounds leaving the industry.  The report deems this a ‘current structural imbalance’ and recommends that ‘re-homing alone cannot solve the problems created by excessive numbers of greyhounds entering the industry each year.’

The bottom line?  There’s still a lot to be done to look after the welfare of the greyhounds in the NZ racing industry.  In the four-year period between 2013/14 and 2016/17, the whereabouts of 1,271 dogs could not even be determined and another 1,447 hounds were officially euthanised.

Upon the report’s release, Racing Minister Winston Peters described the findings as both disturbing and disappointing.  While the racing industry has said it intends to act on all findings, those actions will take time.

And that is why I volunteer with Greyhounds as Pets and also offer my fundraising support.  Because there are so many hounds in need of an adoptive home.

As with children, dogs don’t ask to be born.  But it is our responsibility as a society to care for them once they are brought into the world.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Pet Effect

The Pet Effect is an educational campaign to raise awareness of the health benefits of pets and to encourage veterinary and other pet professionals to understand their role in promoting the benefits of the human-animal bond.

Needless to say, this is an issue very near and dear to my heart.

I am a passionate supporter of “Adopt, Don’t Shop” and, because of my work with dogs and owners as a canine massage therapist, I have the honored position of working with dogs and their owners as a team.  We often focus on quality of life for the dog.  In many cases, the quality of the dog’s life is a direct consequence of what is happening in their human family and vice-versa.

I really like the Pet Effect’s latest video – Adopt a Human – because it puts a different perspective on adoption.


Did your dog rescue you?

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand