I didn’t have any pets growing up (except for an ill-fated goldfish), and had never been interested in dogs. However, I was won over by the floppy jowels and big brown eyes of a goofy little boxer monster named Rizla. From that point forward, I could never be happy without a fuzzy little bum in my life (canine that is). I decided to foster because I was no longer able to see Rizla, and I knew that I would be unable to care for my own dog if presented with any significant vet bills. Still wanting the pitter patter of little paws, fostering would not only give me canine companionship but would help a few little monsters find forever homes. Having pulled my fair share of large dogs out of fights, I thought this was ample preparation for fostering. Then, I met Molly.
The first month with Molly was immensely challenging. Like most surrendered dogs, Molly had a history of behavioural problems which had no doubt been compounded by being shuffled from home to home and lack of canine socialization. Her extreme separation anxiety led to mountains of puppy poo being left on my carpeted floor, every time I left the house. One Friday prior to having company over for the weekend, I went to the hassle of steam cleaning the carpet, which was in desperate need. I left the house for 20 minutes to the return the machine, came back to find a huge pee stain right where I had just finished cleaning! Thanks Molly, that was a nice touch. I was also going through a lot of personal stress and upheaval and did not remotely resemble a calm and assertive pack leader. While I already loved her to bits, the last thing I needed was a puppy even more stressed out than I was, adding to my problems.
SLOWLY things got better. With the exception of the occasional piddle her accidents waned as she became more comfortable with her surroundings. However, she became more and more protective of me and territorial. While she was always obedient to me, she was very sensitive to my emotional state. If anyone was in the room that was either timid, afraid, or simply there when I was upset, Molly would growl, snap, and try and scare them away. My mother thought it was great that I had an over protective big dog at my disposal, however she made having company over challenging. I found that in particular she did not like having men around, but responded well to “alphas,” those with physical presence and confidence, and lacking fear. Again, my mother thought this was awesome.
Shortly after starting to foster Molly, I was hired as a dog walker. So not only did I have 12-15 dogs to walk during the day, I had nother high maintenance pup to handle when I got home as well! I tried to bring Molly out with my pack for socialization, however this was an unmitigated disaster. Imagine 6 petrified pups cowering in my back seat, me trying to drive stick while holding back a 60 lb ferocious boxer from jumping into the back seat and mauling my other dogs! Although my middle name is tenacious, my last name is not stupid so this did not continue. Needless to say, walking over a dozen large breed dogs with behavioural issues every day resulted in a steep learning curve for me.
I knew one of the main problems holding Molly back from being a well-balanced and well-socialized pup was her mom being an emotional basket case. After going through significant financial problems for a year and a half, I made the tough decision to accept a job in San Francisco, which would in the long run make both myself and any of my pups happier. There was no way I could take Molly with me on the initial move. I didn’t have an apartment, my car wouldn’t make it out to SF, and since she is not crate trained and has extreme separation anxiety, flying cargo was just not an option. I was always prepared for having to say goodbye to Molly and would be accepting of this knowing that she was going to a good home (as I had to do with my previous boxer). However, there was no way I would leave a furry bundle of joy without a home. Anyone even remotely familiar with animal rescues knows full well they are overwhelmed by animals and are in desperate need of experienced foster and forever homes. While I have immense confidence and respect for everyone involved in Boxer Rescue, I know that keeping Molly kenneled and finding her a foster or permanent home would be very challenging and expensive for an already over-extended organization. Without having any resources myself I was still going to exhaust every possible option to make sure Molly had a good home, even if it meant flying her to San Francisco. Which, as it turns out is exactly what we had to do.
It took 3.5 months but Molly finally made it to California in September. After waiting patiently in the kennel (and enjoying herself from what I hear) Molly was chauffeured all the way from Oshawa to Chicago where she flew PetAirways to Los Angeles. I drove all the way from SF to LA to pick her up. She immediately recognized me and wiggled her butt extra fast! She was quite stressed and anxious though (aren’t we all after 24+ hours of travel). According to the PetAirways stewards she was very friendly and slept like a log! She had also trimmed down quite a bit. Apparently I wasn’t the only one indulging in peanut butter a little too much! She wasn’t too thrilled about turning around and doing another 7 hours in the car, but we made it back to SF that day and she made herself right at home.
Molly’s time at the kennel and on the plane, surrounded by other dogs, has done her an immense amount of good. As does having a stable mom! To reinforce her socialization I’ve been taking her to Point Isabel every weekend, the largest off-leash park in the US. Although there are definitely dogs she immediately does not like (like the 180lb bull mastiff next door), she is able to simply sniff bums and move along with most pups. She is generally more concerned with smelling out the territory than playing with other dogs anyway. She has also made a new best friend in our building, a young little mutt named Clancy. The love tearing up and down the stairs and hallways and generally making fools of themselves.
A former coworker of mine used to tell me about how much he has learned from dogs, and how much working with behaviourally-challenged dogs has changed his life. He also used to say that he would have paid others for the privilege of being able to learn from these dogs. I didn’t appreciate the depth and accuracy of these statements a year ago, but have come to hold the same opinion. Without having a little crazy boxer to take care of, I would not have been able to pull myself together physically and emotionally. I have learned how to be assertive, in control, calm, and direct. I continually strive to enjoy the present, just like my dogs do, and not to hold on to the past or have my happiness be conditional on the future.
Special thanks to Boxer Rescue for flying Molly to California (especially Barb MacLean and Linda Lloyd for the leg work), Liz McDonnel for transporting Molly all around North America, Tonya Guillemette for visiting Molly in her kennel, my friends Jessica, Elizabeth, Al, Derrick, Rob, and my sister Olivia for puppy-sitting, XX kennel, Erica Garven (thedogsassistant.ca) and Sonny Jarak (dog-talk.ca) for behavioural advice and guidance, and PetAirways who got her here safe and sound.
Rosanna McGuire & Molly
Success Story Dogs
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Event Date 2017-05-06
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