Bandit – A Tribute

Three years ago today was one of the toughest days of my life.  It was the day that Dean and I had to say goodbye to our sweet little boy, Bandit.  It’s a day that makes my heart hurt and also makes me hyper sensitive whenever something is up with my dogs now.

As Bandit untimely lost his life to a brain tumour, and I still look back and think about what more I could have done to help him.  I often find myself saying “if I would have taken him to the vet sooner” and “if I would have pushed to get an MRI done” while still knowing that it would not have made a difference.  I couldn’t have saved him.  Nothing would have saved him.

This is a tribute I wrote to Bandit on my other blog lindsaysomerset.com and as this page is all about animals, I wanted to share with you all today:

Our sweet little boy of 8 (almost 9 years), suffered a seizure three weeks ago and without even knowing it at the time, that was the turning point for his health. He spent the night at the Emergency Vet Clinic the night the seizure happened and was tested for a variety of health issues that would cause a dog to have a seizure.  The couldn’t find anything specific at that time by just doing a blood test and when Dean picked him up the following day, he seemed to be better.  Looking back over the month of May, there were signs that his health was declining.  He wasn’t his usual energetic happy go lucky self.  Things he used to get really excited about, he was no longer really interested in.  Over the past couple of weeks, he started to have issues with his front right leg.  We thought he must have pulled a muscle at daycare but I knew it was more than that when it started to drag a bit when he walked and actually saw him fall over when he was outside peeing on the fence.  I took him to his vet two days after his seizure to get him checked out.  Based on what the vet saw, he assumed it was a slipped disc in his cervical spine and put him on anti inflammatory meds and rest.  The vet mentioned that it could also be a tumour based on the fact that nothing had been found in his blood work (and that was also a feeling the emergency vet had as well).  I didn’t want to believe that was the case as I knew the outcome was not going to be good if that was it.  I took him home that day believing it was a slipped disc and immediately cut all physical activity for him.

Over the next few days, there were moments where it looked like he was walking a bit better but he himself was not better.  He wasn’t hungry like he usually was.  If you called his name, he didn’t respond right away.  He woudn’t really make contact with you and his one eye was so red.  Then, his balance started to go.  He was restless and panting so hard Tuesday night, we were worries he was going to have another seizure.  We realized this was not a slipped disc.  The vets were right in thinking it was a tumour.  By Tuesday night, he could no longer stand without falling over.  Dean and I realized the painful choice we had to make.

We woke up Wednesday morning hoping that he would be better but instead, he was worse.  He was no longer Bandit.  We knew that day was going to be our last with him and the hardest day of our lives together.  I’m grateful that I was able to spend the day with him sitting on the floor telling him how much I love him and Dean and I were grateful that we were able to be there for him in the end.

Anyone whoever met Bandit instantly fell in love with him.  He loved nothing more than being where people were (especially if you had a treat for him).  Although he may be physically gone, he will never be forgotten and Dean and I are grateful that we have so many wonderful and hilarious memories of him.  I would like to share some of them.

Wheat fields

We got Bandit when he was an 8 week old 8lb puppy.  I specifically remember the day we got him, I was in the kitchen in our apartment at the time and turned around to see him sitting there and staring at me.  I then said to Dean “Dean, did we make a mistake?”.  He said “of course not”.  Let’s just say, he was the best “mistake” we ever made.

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Bandit was definitely a stubborn puppy.  I remember the first time I took him out for a walk, I started walking and then got to the end of the leash only to look back and see Bandit just sitting there staring at me refusing to move.  I think I called him for a couple of minutes but he refused to move.  He wanted me to carry him over to the grass so of course, that’s what I did.  He eventually learned how to walk on a leash without sitting there waiting for you to pick him up.

As we lived on the 9th floor of an apartment, we had a balcony.  Thankfully, the space was too small for Bandit to ever fit through, but not his toys.  He would always take his toys out there, push them over the balcony on the bottom opening and sit there and watch them fall.  It was the funniest thing until you realized that you had to go down and get the toy. As well, someone did not appreciate having a squeaky toy dropped on their head as they walked out of the building one time.

Probably one of the worst things Bandit ever did was destroying my cycling helmet (which was not cheap). I remember it was the week we started leaving him out of his crate while we were not there. I went to work and came back a couple of hours later to check on him. When I opened the door to our apartment, I saw a pair of cycling gloves laying on the floor. As I walked in, I saw Bandit sitting in the middle of our apartment shaking and had a look of guilt on his face. It was so cute but so terrifying to think about what he must have done to be acting like that. I then walk in our bedroom and see pieces of foam lying everywhere and then I saw my helmet. He tore out the the inside and started to take apart the outside of it. I screamed when I saw it turned to him and yelled “Bandit! What did you do?!”. Enough to say he was back in his crate for at least another four months after that.

Bandit had many more memorable moments including running into multiple screen doors at full speed, jumping up on the counter at Petsmart to get a treat, his obsession with stacking his toys by his food dish while he eats, running full tilt and clearing my parents couch, his love of carrots,his love of Greenies and pretty much every treat possible, his love of my mom’s slippers and running with them through the house, him untying my dad’s shoe laces as he tried to tie them up and his love of stealing all of the blankets at every chance he got.  Plus, he loved to sit with my dad in their motor home and beg for food. He knew his spot at the table.

Begging for food

Bandit was the perfect dog. He knew when I wasn’t feeling good and he knew when I was sad. I could always count on him to be there for me. There are so many things I’m going to deeply miss about him.

Happy Bandit

I’m going to miss his excitement when he saw myself or Dean. I’m going to miss dropping him off at daycare as he loved going every Friday. I’m going to miss snuggling with him especially when it was cold out and he would crawl under the covers so he could lay right next to me. I’m going to miss his nesting in every blanket he could find. I’m going to miss him pawing at me in the middle of the night to lift him up onto the bed (as he never wanted to jump onto Max). I’m going to miss the way he followed my mom around as when she was around, Dean and I didn’t matter. I’m going to miss him barking at me and running to the gate to greet me if I came home and he was outside. I’m going to miss looking outside and seeing him sitting there in the sun.

Sunshine

Most of all, I’m going to miss the unconditional love he always gave me.

Sweet Bandit

Goodbye Bandit (also known as the Bear). I will always love you and you will live on in my heart until the day I die.

Bandit

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I still have his tags on my keychain

Talking to a friend of mine who has also been through this with her dogs said something that made me think.  Maybe Bandit was helping Dean and I realize that we were meant to go on an add to our family through adoption?  We would have never adopted Freckles or Dolly otherwise.  It will never take the pain away of the sudden loss of him but, realizing that maybe he was trying to send us a message makes the pain of his loss much more bearable.

Choosing A Breeder: What To Know

I want to first start off by stating that yes, this blog is about animal rescue, and I am a big supporter of adopting animals (hence why I use the #adoptdontshop hashtag on social media).  But, I understand that people love certain breeds of animals and there is nothing wrong with that.  I totally understand that as I love boston terriers.  I always have and I always will, and there will probably be a time where I go through a CKC registered breeder to get a boston terrier puppy in the future.

We have had two of them over the years (and one boston/french bulldog) and I can honestly say that we will always have at least one as part of our family.  We can’t have breeds like labs, shepherds or huskies due to Dean being allergic to them (specifically, the dander).

Before we adopted Freckles, we were in contact with a CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) boston terrier breeder.  Sadly the litter we were planning to choose from did not survive as the mom had serious complications and had to be spayed immediately after.  As sad as we were, things worked out and we were able to welcome Freckles to our family.

Yes, we wanted to go through a rescue but, sometimes it’s not always possible (especially if you are looking for certain breeds like boston terriers).  There are certain behavioural issues that we are just not equipped to deal with (ie. aggression towards other dogs or humans or extreme separation anxiety) which can honestly be tough to find a dog who doesn’t have behavioural issues if you are looking at going through a rescue as they usually have lived through incredibly challenging environments.

This is one of the reasons why people may choose to go through a breeder.  The problem lies in the fact that most people do not do their homework when it comes to breeders.  Most people will not take the time to research and find a CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) or AKC (America Kennel Club) breeder, and may simply turn to sites like kijiji or Craigslist.  They want a puppy and are not willing to pay the thousands (yes, purebred dogs from championship bloodlines will cost you in the thousands) or if they are, they are unaware of who they are giving their money to.  People are usually unaware they are getting their dog from an unlicensed backyard breeder.

Edmonton and Alberta people beware, Justin Iverson, is continuing to poorly breed dogs and sell them under the name of Bullies Worldwide. Do NOT support him in any way shape or form. He should be in jail, not endangering and abusing these dogs.

Well, what’s so bad about that?

Backyard breeders are only in it to make money.  They do not care about the wellbeing or health of the animal.  These dogs are forced to live in crates without ever going outside.  They are never or rarely ever house trained.  They never get their vaccinations to prevent them from getting diseases such as bordetella (aka. kennel cough) and can die from the bacterial strain, and rarely get any veterinary care except if something is seriously wrong or jeopardizing that dog’s ability to breed.

By getting your animal from a backyard breeder, you may be getting a dog that is extremely sick and there have been many cases of that and where the dog (which is usually a puppy) has to be put down.  Backyard breeders have been known to dock certain breeds tails or ears in non-sterile or anatomically beneficial manners, and those dogs usually end up with infections or risk paralysis from spinal nerve damage because the “breeders” don’t know what they are doing.

Once a dog no longer produces puppies for them, those dogs are disposable. Freckles was a dog that her original owners thought she was disposable.  They actually took her (a two year old boston terrier) to the vet to be put down because she was no use to them anymore after she was no longer able to have puppies. When she was young she developed an eye injury, and because she is a fairly rare ginger coloured boston terrier, they opted to have surgery to keep her alive, but then forced her to have litter after litter to recoup the costs of the surgery. In the end, the owners surrendered her for all of $50 to an animal rescue volunteer in order to cover the remaining costs of vaccinations following her surgery.

By going through sites like kijiji and Craigslist, these are the kinds of people you are supporting (as registered breeders NEVER advertise on these kind of sites).

How do I know I’m going through a registered breeder?

There are a number of things that registered breeders will do and not do.  The first is that they will have you fill out an application form (just like all rescue organizations do).  They want to make sure their dogs are going to a proper home.  They will take the time to ask you questions and they are willing to answer any questions that you will have.  They will allow you to see the parents in person if you ask (this is a huge red flag if they don’t).  They will have certificates of being CKC or AKC registered (you can also check on the CKC or AKC website to see if they are good standing with them) and will have all the certificates for their dogs and show the genealogy of the dog and through at least 2 generations.  They will never allow you to take a puppy home earlier than 8-12 weeks (again, huge red flag if it’s earlier than that).  They will ween, crate train and house train the puppy for you, and ensure they have received all mandatory vaccinations up to the age they release the puppy for adoption.

There will also be very strict health standards that any of their animals will need to have met before being bred.  If they do not meet these standard, that animal will not be bred.  Their animals will also only be allowed to be bred a very small amount of times and will not be immediately after every single litter.

They will make you sign an agreement where you will NOT be allowed to breed that dog and will also have in the agreement that you will spay or neuter that dog.  They will not meet you in a random parking lot somewhere, grab the cash, throw the dog at you and run (if they do, they are are backyard breeder and do NOT give them money).

Going through a registered breeder will never 100% guarantee an animal’s long term health.  I know someone that went through a registered breeder for a boxer and the boxer ended up with a brain tumour and had to be put down at the age of five.

I know there are people who are going to read this and be angry that I am talking about going through a breeder and not only adopting.  Yes, in a ideal world, everyone would adopt an animal and not go through breeders. However, in many cases, animals who come from backyard breeders tend to wind up as rescue dogs, much like Freckles. By understanding how to avoid backyard breeders when you’re looking for a specific breed, you can ensure you end this barbaric practice and avoid those who only want money without looking out for the welfare of their animals.

In an ideal world, animal rescue organizations should not exist.  All animals should be loved, cared for and wanted.  Everyone would spay and neuter their animal.  No one would every abandon or abuse their animal.  There would also be no such thing as hatred, racism, bigotry, misogyny, poverty, addiction, abuse and war either in an ideal world.

I honestly am not a fan of people involved with animal rescue who choose to shame those who do go through a breeder.  All I (and those involved with animal rescue) can do is educate people to make informed choices.  I will always support animal rescue (through either volunteering, donating or adopting when I can) even if I ever choose to go through a CKC registered breeder to add to our family.  The two do not have to mutually exclusive.  We will always have rescues in our home, and will always have boston terriers as well.

So You Want To Adopt An Animal: Adoption complete. Now what?

Now that you have gone through part one and part two of the adoption process, you are ready to welcome the animal home.  As exciting as it is, it can also be very overwhelming for you (and others who live with you) and the animal.  What should you expect in the first month?

Many people believe that when they bring a new animal home, everything will be perfect.  The animal will want to cuddle you and be best friends with other animals in the house right away.  I hate to break this to you, but that most likely will not be the case.  The first day and even week is going to most likely be the most stressful for you and the animal.  It’s a new situation for both of you and it’s a brand new environment for the animal.  It will take time for the animal to settle in and figure things out.

Get into a routine with the animal.

Like kids (yes, parents I know it’s different than actually raising kids), getting into a consistent routine will help the animal settle.  Try feeding and walking the animal at the same time every day.  If you are using a crate (especially at night or when you leave the house), it’s also good to get into a routine with that (ie. letting the dog out before they go in the crate and then giving them a treat for going in).  For us, we give Dolly her medication after her morning walk around the same time every day, walk her in the afternoon, and feed her in the evening at roughly the same times.

Realize that Seperation Anxiety may happen.

Separation anxiety is very common in a lot of dogs (and can happen in cats as well).  Every dog we have had, has had some level of separation anxiety.  It can can be anything from peeing and pooping on the floor (which Max did when we first got him and Freckles still does if she doesn’t go in her crate) to barking to destroying things like furniture.  It can be mild to severe.  There are many resources out there on how to deal with separation anxiety but understand that the animal does not do things maliciously so yelling and hitting your animal is not the way to deal with it.

The animal may very shy and hide until they are comfortable. 

Most people believe that the day they bring the animal home, they will be sitting on the couch watching Netflix with them that night.  That may be the case with some (we lucked out with Max and Freckles as they did want to cuddle with us on the couch on the first night), not every animal will.

It took Dolly two days of hiding under the desk in our office before she would come out on her own.  And when did come out, as soon as Max or Freckles barked, she would run back into the office and hide under the desk.  For the first day, she shook in fear.  I’ll be honest in saying that I was worried as I wasn’t sure if she would ever feel comfortable here.  I talked to her foster mom and she said I needed to give her time.  When she’s ready, she would come out on her own.  And she did.

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Finally coming out of hiding and joined me on the couch

The animal may want to run if they get the chance.

Do not be surprised if your dog wants to take off, especially if they are scared.  The first week has the highest chance of your animal taking taking off.  I know for us, Max gave us a real scare when he took off within the first month.  I don’t think I have ever been that panicked in my life.  Thankfully, we had gone for enough walks around the neighbourhood that he knew where our house was and came back as we found him by our back gate.  Others I know have not been as lucky.

It’s really is amazing how some animals will slip out of their collars and leashes. What’s recommended is that the dog wear a harness and have two leashes attached so that if one leash slips (because it can happen), you still have the other leash.  Harnesses I find work better as it’s harder for dogs to slip out of them and if your dog pulls, it won’t choke them (plus, I find it easier to control them while walking).

Establish rules and boundaries right away.

Along with developing a routine, you need to establish rules and boundaries right away (especially if you have a puppy).  Don’t want the dog on the bed or the couch?  Then don’t allow to jump up and lay down.  Don’t want the cat on the kitchen counter?  Then don’t allow them to walk up there.  If you let your animal do whatever they want, they will.  And when they get into bad habits, it can be very tough to break those habits.

If you have other animals in the house, they may not be best friends right away.

I can speak from experience that all of my animals all ignored each other for extended periods of time before they finally acknowledged (let alone played with) one another.  While some animals may get along great right away, that is not always the case.  When we got Max, he and Bandit ignored each other for a long time.  No dog was more dominant than the other for a while (until Max decided he was alpha).  It was close to a year before they started to play with one another (in other words, play tug of war with a toy).  When we got Freckles, she wanted to be with Max but he couldn’t have cared less (and still kid of doesn’t).  He tolerates her.  However they now will share the pet pillow in front of the fireplace together.

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Freckles will gladly force snuggle Max

As I stated above, it took Dolly a while to even feel comfortable and safe with Dean and I.   Both Dolly and Freckles seem to be dogs that love being around other dogs.  They are now insperable and Freckles loves to lick Dolly’s face and Dolly loves it (so much so that Dolly will shove her face into Freckles just so Freckles will lick her).  Her and Max get along, but he mostly just ignores her (unless she has food).

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These three

If you are adopting a puppy, you need to train them.

This part should be a no brainer but, I have seen cases (one recently) where someone wanted to return a puppy because they expected that puppy to act like a grown dog.  That’s like expecting a toddler to act like a 18 year old.

Puppies need structure and training (like creating a routine).  You can NOT expect that a puppy won’t chew (especially if you leave things like shoes lying on the floor).  You need to teach a puppy how to behave and that is YOUR responsibility as soon as the dog is yours.  Not sure where to start?  Find a puppy training class (if you live in a city, they are everywhere).

Don’t want to train a puppy?  Then don’t get one.  Adopt an older dog.  If you are smart, you would have already decided this in part one.

At the end of the day, I just want people to be educated and to THINK.  As someone who volunteers for two animal rescues and follows many on social media, it’s frustrating to see people who clearly do not think things through when wanting to adopt an animal.   I just hope that these last three posts will help you or anyone you know about making an informed decision when it comes to animal adoption.

The goal of any rescue is to find the forever home for animals. If you truly care about animals, you will want that as well.

 

So You Want To Adopt An Animal: The Application and Home Check

After going through the first part of wanting to adopt an animal, the next step is filling out an adoption application for an animal.  Let me start by saying PLEASE fully read an animal’s bio before submitting an application.

The bio will give important information as to whether the animal has any specific behavioural problems, or issues with other potential members of your family. When a rescue organization says that a dog is not good with cats, and you have at least one cat, it will not be a good fit (especially if they will be sharing the same living space).  When a rescue organization says that a dog needs to go to home with older children and you have a toddler, that will not be a good fit.  When a rescue organization says a dog has severe separation anxiety and you are gone for 8-13 hours a day and live in a condo, it will not be a good fit.  Please do not try and plead your case stating that you can “try and make it work”.  Rescue organizations attempt to have zero returned animals, and if the situation does not work, then the animal will have to go through undue stress, as will the rescue organization.

Once you have found the animal that you believe will be a good fit, it’s time to submit an application.  There are some things you need to know when filling out the application:

Fill out everything on the application.

This is just like filling out a job application, you would not leave parts blank.  As someone who worked in Human Resources, we would never consider someone who did not fully fill out the job application.  Rescue organizations are no different.  They need as much detail as possible.  Yes, most applications will take you at least 10 minutes to fill out (if not more), so sit down and take your time filling it out.

It takes time for rescue organizations to get back to you.

If you submit an application, do not expect to hear back about it within an hour or even a day.  Rescue organizations are run by volunteers.  This means people are volunteering their time and are still working full time jobs and are busy with family and other obligations.  When your application is submitted, it will not be looked at right away.  It’s the same with job applications.  You are never called back the same day you submit a job application.  Please also note that depending on the animal, rescue organizations can receive many applications and those will take time to go through.

To give you an idea, when Dean and I adopted Freckles, who is a one eye female, red Boston Terrier, the rescue organization received hundreds of applications for her.  It took close to a week before we heard back.

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So many people wanted to adopt this little girl.

If you are not sure if your application went through, it’s fine to send a follow up email after about a week or so.  But, please do not call, email, or write on social media every single day.

If you go to an adoption event, you will NOT be taking that animal home that day.

Rescue organizations do adoption events for a reason, it’s so people can meet the animals.  These events are also a great opportunity to ask questions about the animal.  Even if you have filled out an adoption application at the event and you have met the animal, you will not be taking the animal home that day (at least for almost all rescues that I am aware of).  Please do NOT get mad at the volunteers.

I was helping out at an adoption event a few years ago with a local rescue and an individual had just (on the spot) filled out an adoption application.  That individual then expected that they would be taking the animal home with them.  When they were told that is not how the rescue’s adoption policy worked (as they needed time to review the application, call references and do a home check), the individual became quite angry and and actually yelled at the volunteers in the store.  Enough to say, that application was shredded.  That is not appropriate or acceptable behaviour.  All I can think is if they got that upset and behaved like that towards volunteers, I do not want to think about what they would do if they got upset or angry at the animal.

As referenced in my other points, applying to adopt an animal is no different that applying for a job.  Even if you go to a job fair, talk with the recruiters and fill out a job application, you will likely not get hired for the job on the spot.  There stills needs to be a formal interview (a second one if needed) and references called.  It’s the same with adopting an animal.  Just like employers need to ensure you are the right fit for the job, rescue organizations need to ensure that you are the right fit for that animal.

Once the your application has been submitted and reviewed, if successful, you will be contacted for a meet and greet.  For the meet and greets, everyone who will be living with the animal needs to attend.  No exceptions.

When we first met Dolly, we were unsure about how she would react to Dean as some rescues who have gone through a lot of abuse can be fearful of men.  Thankfully, she loved him right away and actually gave him her paw to hold.

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Dolly gave me her paw on her first day home with us.

Besides the animal meeting all of the humans, the animal will need to meet any other pets that you have.  This can be arranged with in any manner that would work for you.  Whether that’s meeting up and going for a walk (assuming it’s a couple of dogs) or having the foster parent bring the animal over to your house (as home checks will need to be done as well).

I can tell you that you will know right away if it will be a good fit with your animals.  If they sniff each other, play with each other or even ignore each other (which I found to be the case most of the time), it’s a good thing.  If an animal (specifically a dog) lunges at your other animal, growls and bares teeth, it will not work.

Before we got Max, we were wanting to adopt a second dog as we had a male Boston Terrier, Bandit, at the time.  We filled out an adoption application for a dog with a local rescue and within seconds of meeting, they were going after each other barking and biting. It clearly was not a good fit.  So, we waited to find a dog that would be less adversarial.

If a meet and greet goes well, references will be called (sometimes before you even meet the animal, they will be called) and if everything checks out (just like a job interview), a home check will be scheduled.

For the home check, rescue organizations are looking to see things like if your yard is fully fenced in.  They will ask where the animal (specifically if it a dog) will be during the day and sleeping at night.  They will not be judging you if you have dirty dishes in the sink. Rescue organizations want to make sure that you have everything you need to make this animal safe, loved and welcome in your home.

If everything goes well, and you want to still adopt the animal (because sometimes there are cases where people do change their mind), you can let the rescue organization know and arrangements can made for paying the adoption fees and transferring over of microchip and medical information.

Stay tuned for next week where I go through what to expect when you bring the animal home (hint: it takes time for an animal to adjust so do not expect things to be perfect right away).