(aka: MURPHY) update June 2007

Well....I can hardly believe this adoption story. We originally heard about Murphy from our old friend Marti Jeffers of Georgia, who had adopted her Riley from us several years ago. Since adopting Riley, Marti had become an ardent rescuer, and she had her hand in an effort to help Murphy, who was -- at that time -- a resident of the great state of Tennessee.

Marti had been in contact with Jennifer Milam, of Tennessee Reskies, who reported to her that someone found Murphy as a stray in Sevier County, Tennessee, and brought him to the Knox County Animal Shelter where she picked him up. Murphy was in pretty rough shape. His eye had been injured in some fashion and he was paritally blind. During his initial vet exam, the vet found that a collar had grown into Murphy's neck that had to be surgically removed. By the time Murphy had been fixed up by the vet, Jennifer had met a family from Delaware who were excited about adopting Murphy.

As Jennifer put it, the Delaware folks were "naive" dog people who weren't equipped with the commitment or problem solving ability to troubleshoot typical rescue Eskie behaviors. And so, his new adopters did the Murphy dump, and this created a stir among the East coast Eskie rescuers as we emailed back and forth trying to find someone who could get to Murphy before his family took him to a shelter. Marti Jeffers was instrumental in coordinating the Murphy Campaign, and it was finally Samantha Chan of Peskies Rescue in Nyack, New York, who was able to take in Murphy.

Sam became suspicious when Murphy became a bit nippy when she touched his back leg, so she took him to the vet. The vet promptly removed six "BBs" from his hind leg, which clearly accounted for some of Murphy's crankiness with people. In a short time--as is often the case--Sam ran into the "Clancy Factor," which is my code for her alpha Eskie Clancy hating a particular rescue dog and raising so much hell that Sam's house goes up for grabs. Such was the case with Murphy, and Sam asked for our help in placing him.

And so, I drove down to pick up Murphy, along with Wylie Coyote, and was quite impressed with him. Murphy seemed to be quiet, well-mannered and up to speed on several obedience commands. As I got to know him, I thought of Karen Kent and Geoff Patton, and their girls, Alicia and Caitlin, who had been waiting to adopt for sometime. After their intended adoptee, Kia, had developed some unforseen medical problems that took her out of the adoption circuit for a while, I suggested that Karen and Geoff meet Murphy. He seemed to have the temperament that would suit their family, and they had hearts big enough to overlook his partial blindness.

And so, I made the trip north to introduce Murphy to the Kent-Patton family. And, might I just say that he did just about everything he could to screw things up. After a fairly friendly introduction, Murphy proceeded to snap at Caitlin. And he snapped at both girls a few more times. I was ready to park his cranky butt in the car, but Karen and Geoff were determined to turn the situation around. You typical Eskie fashion, Murphy had decided that he was Geoff Patton's "Number One" and he assumed his family position as lord and master over Karen and the girls. Well, we spent a good portion of the afternoon teaching the girls some basic obedience commands to convince Murphy that he was the low man on the totem pole, and everyone was impressed with his immediate progress. Nonetheless, Karen and Geoff sensed that they were in for some work with Murphy and they prepared themselves for the task.

It took about a week for Murphy to settle in and during that time, he did his best to ignore Caitlin and Alicia, who were not pleased at all with being ignored. Finally Murphy witnessed what Karen and Geoff call "Cuddle Time" where the whole family snuggles up in the master bedroom for a family chat. Well, apparently, Murphy does not like to be ignored either, because, he jumped up on the bed and planted his butt right in the middle of the quartet to get his fair share of "Cuddle Time." This appeared to be a watershed moment for Murphy, and the improvement from that point on, has been remarkable. This adoption is a wonderful example of a close-knit family who have worked together to train and socialize their rescue Eskie and the result is really inspirational.

Here is Karen's report on Murphy -- whom they have re-christened Snowbear (which indeed is a much more Eskie-like name!) :

Hi, Denise,

Sorry it took so long for me to get back to you about Snowbear. We just got these pictures back so hope it was worth the wait. Snowbear has made a lot of progress settling in with our family and in his obedience training. His trainer at Petsmart tried to find opportunities with customers she knows for Snowbear to encounter friendly dogs and work on his fear of dogs. In the eight weeks of classes he went from growling at every dog he met to being able to pass huge dogs in the aisle without incident. Caitlyn and Alycia did all the training with him! The picture is of them with Snowbear on the night he "graduated" from training.

Snowbear greets all of us with excited jumps and kisses when we arrive home. When all four of us come home together we all kneel down in close proximity before opening his crate so he can run back and forth among us giving us all kisses 'till he winds down. When he gets this excited he'll often run into his crate to grab a favorite squeaky toy and start whipping it about to get out some of his energy.

By now he knows I'm always good for a tummy rub so he practically flips himself over just at the sight of me - and if I should have the nerve to stop, out comes the paw to get me started again! Since we've had so much snow this winter Geoff has been able to go out cross-country skiing at the golf course down the street and Snowbear has really enjoyed romping along with him.We also fenced in our yard and he gets to go out whenever he feels like it. So he's been getting plenty of exercise and affection, and in general he continues to be a very well-behaved and loving dog.

The only real issue we continue to struggle with is his fear aggression toward visitors to our house. I am following the advice of the two trainers I've consulted, but unfortunately we just do not have enough people coming and going from our house for him to get the exposure he needs to get over this issue quickly. He has made a lot of progress with people and dogs outside our house. Everyone in my extended family noted the big improvement he made coping with 20 people and two other dogs between the Thanksgiving and Christmas visits, and the Petsmart trainer was very impressed with his progress.

He seems to have gotten worse, though, with the barking and snapping when people come to our house, and we have to keep him on a leash (but not tied) when people come over. When he gets going, no amount of snapping on his leash or saying "Eh!" or "No" has seemed to have any effect on stopping the barking. I understand that it can take six months to a year for a dog to truly settle in so I'm not expecting miracles, but in the meantime it is a challenge when people come to the house. I know this isn't the type of report you usually post on your adoption updates, but it may still be worthwhile for potential adoptors to really understand that there can be totally unforeseen issues that they might have to invest the time and effort to deal with.

We really love him and are glad to give him the type of happy life he deserves, and we will keep working with him on this issue. I'll know that he has really gotten over the effects of his prior abuse when, not only does he not go ballistic when people come to the house, but he is able to really play with other dogs and people and clearly be having fun. I look forward to writing another update months from now to tell you how much he's improved in these areas.

Stay tuned! Best wishes,


Update: June 2007: Snow bear has a sister

Hi, Denise,
           We actually got a small Golden mix named Anya last Saturday, directly off the doggie van that brings dogs from various rescues in Louisianna to the adopters in the north.  I've attached some pictures of her with the kids at the scene when we picked her up.  The story of how she came into rescue is actually not the most familiar one.  Someone apparently let her go in front of the property of a woman who runs a border collie rescue, because she just wandered up to her house (this has happened before to this woman.)  It seems far more typical that owners just dump them on the highway.  At least the person dumping her had a bit of a conscience since the dog did go immediately from being dumped to getting excellent care.  She was about the same age as SnowBear when she was dumped - seven months.  Maybe that's a high risk age for dogs - when they're no longer the tiny adorable puppies you brought home but the close to full-sized puppies who pee and poop in the house and chew everything in sight.  She and SnowBear seem to represent the extremes for outcomes for dumped dogs.

We've been busy trying to make the introduction as reassuring as possible to SnowBear so he doesn't feel like he's being replaced, while at the same time providing Anya with lots of love and attention so she doesn't turn into a dog who's hostile to other dogs, like SnowBear.  What we want to happen is that SnowBear gets reassured that nothing has changed as far as our relationship with him, and then Anya's outgoing, playful persona will be able to influence SnowBear positively.  In the ideal scenario he will come to accept her, then like her, then start actually playing with her.  It would be so great to see him actually playing with a canine companion. 
I would love to be able to help with fostering but at this time we're focused so much on managing the relationship between SnowBear and Anya (and housebreaking her, and getting the yard fenced in, that having another dog come in would really mess with SnowBear's head and would be more than I could handle.  I'm still working full time, with a long commute, and driving the carpool a couple days a week to the school my kids attend three towns away.  After things settle down a bit and the yard is fenced, I might be able to help but you have to keep in mind that there's no one in the house for 8-9 hours a day. 
Hope things are going well for you.  I send you jokes from time to time - hope you've been getting them.  I'll keep in touch. 

Take care,