Monthly Archives: January 2007

Freckle goes to the beach

Freckle & Ceilidh rest … a lot  On New Year’s Day we decided to take the girls to Spanish Banks for a walk on the beach. It was a very windy, rainy day and we didn’t expect to see many people or dogs, but as soon as we reached the beach, Freckle said a short, friendly hello to a Yellow Lab. The Lab’s owners were obviously there for a walk and off they headed down the beach. They had traveled a long way when Freckle, on her 30-foot training leash, decided to take off like a bullet down the beach after the Lab. The leash slipped out of Mary Doug’s hands and Freckle quickly became a brown dot on the horizon. Although we have been working on recall and Freckle is very reliable—turns on a dime when called to us—the wind was howling! Not only was it blowing toward us, it was blowing the scent of the new friend—the Yellow Lab—directly into Freckle’s nostrils. Mary Doug was ahead of me as I puffed along pulling Ceilidh on her leash. We were both frantic, screaming “Freckle” into the wind and knowing full well that our voices were carrying only about two feet before being blown back to us. The brown dot that was Freckle was not even visible as I peered into the wind. Suddenly I became aware of a gasping sound. I looked behind me and poor Ceilidh was trying to keep up with us. Ceilidh has only one lung (she had one removed when she was six) and as you know she is old, blind and very arthritic. I immediately stopped and picked her up and tried to continue with a 19 pound Pug wheezing in my arms, my feet sliding in the sand, and all the while screaming ineffectually into the wind. Mary Doug continued with the determination of a triathlete—it truly was very impressive!

It was one of those experiences where time slows down and if you could have heard our screams, they would also have been ssslllloooowwwweeed dooooowwwwwnnnnnn with a baritone, garbled quality. I remember thinking we would never get Freckle back and that we would never again be entrusted with the care of a rescue Boxer. After minutes (perhaps two) had passed and we had traveled almost 15 feet in the quicksand, we could see the Freckle dot reappear near the owners of the Lab. They were waving their arms and I think that they were trying to encourage Freckle to come back to us. In reality, they could have been gesticulating “You crazy dog!!! Get back to your crazy people right now and leave us alone!!!” Whatever they were saying, Freckle the dot began to run back toward us until she became visible as the crazy Boxer that she is. She ran toward and past Mary Doug who reached down to pick up the training leash as it flew past her. I remember thinking, “Beeeee caaaaarrrreefuuuulllll!” But it was too late. I watched as Mary Doug flew gracefully through the air… still hanging on to the leash. Freckle continued to fly toward me and Ceilidh with a look of pure joy on her face. Her beautiful Boxer lips flapped as her feet pounded into the sand. She looked just like a champion race horse at full speed. I stood holding Ceilidh and watched, knowing that very soon Freckle was going to reach the end of the 30-foot training leash and wondering what would happen to Mary Doug who was still in a pile on the sand and still hanging on to the leash. There was a sharp jerk on Freckle’s leash which thankfully was attached to her harness and not her collar. Then there was an equally sharp jerk on Mary Doug’s arm (which unfortunately was attached to her prone body). She still did not let go of the leash. Freckle turned around and looked at Mary Doug with an expression that said, “What are you doing down there?” She trotted over to her and began licking her face. Mary Doug put her arm around Freckle and slowly stood up. We were both speechless for a few minutes.

It was that day at the beach when I began to wonder exactly how old Freckle is. She is no longer a teenager, but she sure hasn’t reached that mellow middle-age period! Unfortunately, we have! It took a long time for my knees to stop shaking as we made our way down the beach with the wind at our backs. Mary Doug limped along, keeping a vice-grip on the training leash as Freckle ran more big loops with that maniacal look that Boxers get when they are running and completely “in the moment.” Ceilidh plodded along behind me with her breathing finally back to normal. After about half an hour, the rain began in earnest and we decided to call it a day. Back home, Freckle settled into her bed and slept like a baby. We sat pensively on the couch and then Mary Doug went to have a hot bath to try to appease her sore muscles. It wasn’t until the next day that we were able to see some of the humour in the incident as we thought about what the scene must have looked like to an observer. Each day we learn a bit more about Freckle, and January 1st was the day that we learned that unlike our first two Boxers, Freckle will bolt if the situation is right. Just imagine how much more we have to learn in the next 364 days of 2007!

Until the next Boxer Report … remember two things: 1) there’s nothing like living in the moment, and 2) there’s nothing like a hot bath with Epsom’s salt.


Freckle — Week 4

Did I say that we thought the first two weeks were the hardest? Well, let me revise that. As one of the trainers Mary Doug talked to said, “After the first two or three weeks with a rescue dog, the honeymoon is over. Now they begin to push the boundaries.” In our case it’s not as ominous as it sounds but it needs attention, nonetheless. The fact that we live in an extremely densely populated area with too many creatures of both the two- and four-legged variety is having an impact on Freckle’s behaviour. In the apartment diagonally across the street from us is a dog who spends a great deal of time outside on his balcony. He’s a big furry dog and I’m sure he probably loves being outdoors. However, he barks frenetically at any and all four-legged individuals within range of vision or smell. For the first few weeks, Freckle’s muscles would tense but she didn’t react otherwise. Gradually though, she has become more and more irritated at Sparky’s tirades and now growls and sometimes barks back. And if Ceilidh is with us, she goes into a barking frenzy just to get everyone’s adrenalin flowing nicely. Since Sparky begins barking as soon as we emerge from our front door, Freckle is in a state of preparedness each time we go for a walk and it seems likely that this heightened alertness is making her somewhat more wary. We also have a huge Golden Lab teenager nearby who believes that “in your face—knock you down friendliness” is the way to greet anyone and everyone. Since he literally drags his owner around at the end of a leash, we are very cautious about Freckle taking offense when he gets too close. While she has met many dogs on leash, said hello and invited play, over the past week, Freckle seems to be getting a bit less dog-friendly. She has growled when a dog turned to walk away with his owner—typical dog-aggressive behaviour familiar from our first two Boxers. Mary Doug has begun a search for a training class with a trainer who is experienced with the Boxer personality. I think that Freckle is still trying to find her place and trying to understand how she fits into the household and neighbourhood. We will eventually work out a comfortable relationship all around.

Freckle — Week 3

Pictures at: Flickr-The Freckle Era

Well, we think the first couple of weeks were the hardest. Freckle is settling in very well and continues to appear more relaxed each day. One has to wonder where all of this progressive relaxation will end up … a warm brown-coloured noodle reclining in the dog bed 24/7? She does seem to have a penchant for sleeping many hours and we can only assume that she’s still recovering from the traumatic change she’s endured in recent months and perhaps longer if her owner was ill before she/he passed.

We continue to be very careful with food to avoid the ‘food crazies’ between Freckle and Ceilidh. However, we (the grown-ups) are now able to eat a snack in the living room with the girls in their respective beds without much ado. Nice! The only arguments between the two these days is related to playing—that is Freckle tries to play with Ceilidh, gets a bit exuberant, whacking her across the head with her big Boxer paw, then Ceilidh getting in a snit because she’s stiff and sore [read: she flies at Freckle sounding like a Rottweiler on steroids—gums gnashing (she has only about 3 teeth left) and saliva flying—probably causing Freckle even greater trauma and need for sleep! Not that I’ve ever seen a Rottweiler on steroids personally.] So … play must be supervised very carefully and with the hope that Freckle will learn to treat Ceilidh like the delicate flower that she has become.

Another landmark—this week Freckle actually rolled over on her back and invited us to rub her tummy—a sure sign that she’s feeling more comfortable in her forever home. With new found optimism, we decided on Boxing Day morning that we would give her a ‘real bath’ with lanolin and aloe shampoo. She’s been scratching a great deal and has dandruff too. Our last Boxer, Sassy, aka ‘Gandhi-dog,’ used passive resistance with such effectiveness that the Mahatma would have been proud. She would turn into over-cooked spaghetti until we gave up and left her in a puddle. Her 83 pound body was a lot to carry around. Now Freckle turns her 65 pound body into a rigid structure that will not be moved in any manner! It’s an amazing sight … who knew that the big white bathtub could be so terrifying? However, we persevered and managed to get her itchy little body into the bathtub. She stood patiently while we lathered her with lanolin and aloe and finally lifted her like a pre-fab house onto the bathmat and toweled her dry.

We don’t know whether the following behaviour is normal for all dogs or just ours. After bath time, Bridget (Boxer #1), Sassy (Boxer #2) and Ceilidh (the #1 Pug) have had to: 1) pee immediately and 2) RUN at a frantic pace throughout the house, over the furniture, across the bed, slamming into walls, people and anything else in the way. Anticipating similar behaviour, we carefully let Ceilidh out first to let her do her thing in a somewhat safe manner (she is nearly completely blind now—adding to the challenge of interacting with Freckle). Then we let Freckle out to see what she would do. Surprise! She began to tear through the apartment like her stubby little tail was on fire! Forty minutes later, Mary Doug said in a rather desperate tone of voice, “Will you puleeez phone Ginger (my co-worker) and set up that play-date with Jessie???” Jessie is a lovely dog who frequently comes to work with Ginger. I call her ‘party girl’ as she’s usually the one trying to entice the other dogs in the office to play. Fortunately, Jessie was home and agreed to bring Ginger and go with us out to a quiet, dog-free zone at UBC to play.

The play-date with Jessie was just what the Boxer doctor ordered! We’re afraid that Jessie may still be having nightmares, but Freckle had a blast! When Freckle first meets a new dog, like many Boxers, she looks a bit like she’s going to eat them for lunch. Then she starts the play-bows and is off to the races. Jessie is five and Freckle is three or so … and the difference in age was obvious—even in the solid down-pouring of rain. Every so often Freckle would be distracted by the scent of a squirrel (we’re pretty sure that she was a Beagle or Basset Hound in a previous life). Jessie shared her two year advantage of squirrel chasing wisdom and a great time was had by all. Thank you Jessie and Ginger for giving us such a wonderful play in the middle of a Vancouver day of rain.

The holiday break has been a bit of a change in pace for Freckle as we’ve both been off work (me) or on a very flexible schedule (Mary Doug). Freckle has been extremely accommodating in terms of allowing us to sleep in a wee bit from our usual 6:30 am rising time. This morning at 8:00 am, I knew that Freckle was awake but lying patiently in her bed (she LOVES her bed!). At 8:30, she got out of her bed, shook (like a Boxer shakes) and came over to the side of the bed. I kept my eyes nearly closed to see what she would do. She put one paw up on the bed, then the other paw … and very slowly inched her way across until her face was next to mine. It was as if she thought that no one knew she was there. Then she began an explosion of licking all over my face. It makes me laugh just to think about it. I hugged her and she snuggled in, rubbing her face all over me and licking me even more frenetically. She is such a sweetheart! By then Ceilidh was up and Freckle moved on to wake Mary Doug up … or so she thought. It’s pretty hard to sleep through a Boxer wake-up call in the neighbourhood.

The only final observation for this week is that Freckle’s nail polish is beginning to wear off. Yes, when we met Freckle, she had very red toenails. At first we thought it was accumulated blood from having long nails, but on closer examination, we discovered that she had red nail polish on each and every toenail. Who knew that she was such a diva? We’re not sure that we can keep up the pace … but it makes us smile to think about it.

Freckle – week 1 & 2

Pictures at: Flickr – The Freckle Era

Lexi/Freckles has been with us two weeks tomorrow (December 23). And what a couple of weeks it has been. But I’ll start at the beginning.

We drove down to Marysville, WA on Saturday two weeks ago to meet a CUR (Canine Underground Railroad) volunteer bringing two Boxers and two or three Border Collies from Idaho to Washington. Mary Doug had arranged to meet him just off the highway at a MacDonald’s. We got there early, knowing that Bob had commitments in the afternoon and wouldn’t appreciate having to wait for us. We had a MacDonald’s lunch (a flash to the [ugly] past!) while we sat nervously peering out the window and glancing at our watches. We joked that people must have thought it quite a sight—two middle-aged Canadian women anxiously waiting for … something.

At two o’clock (15 minutes early), a white pickup with a canopy pulled in and Bob got out to greet the Border Collie connection—a woman driving a maroon SUV. Bob looked at us as we rushed up to him and said simply, “Gotta leash?” We dashed to our rental car, got the leash, and then met Lexi. When we saw her pictures on the North Idaho Boxer Rescue site, they showed a girl with quite a long snout. Well, when we saw her wiggling her way out of her travel crate, there was no doubt that she was 100% Boxer! We lifted her down from the back of the truck and spent the next 20 hours trying to get her to pee! But more about that later.

We walked Lexi around a grassy area surrounding the MacDonald’s for 30-40 minutes. She was very sweet … obviously concerned… looking for Bob and then staring intently at people around us, looking for someone familiar. Finally we gave up on the peeing and coaxed her into the blanket-clad back seat of the car. She was very tentative and waited to have her back end lifted in. We decided that we’d better find a pet supply shop and buy the dog food she was used to eating because we would most likely get back to Vancouver after everything was closed. We also found a self-serve dog-shower to give her a bath as she was quite oily from all of her recent stress and travel—you know how traveling makes you feel! The dog bath is another story (the dog-ro-mat had just closed but kindly agreed to let us bathe her). Getting Lexi up the ramp to the tub, the actual (but short) bath and the “Christmas cologne” NOT!) is quite another story! Her patience with us is even greater testimony to the forgiveness of creatures.

Our trip home was long. There was some sort of unusual security check-point just before the border—they were looking for someone or something. Once we got to the border, there was not even a question about Lexi, despite the fact that she stood up and stuck her head up to Mary Doug’s open window with a “Just who do you think you are?” attitude. We were further delayed by an over-turned truck loaded with bricks and had to make our way home over one of the bridges east of the tunnel. Lexi slept much of the time, stretched out on the back seat.

It was raining when we arrived home and Mary Doug brought Ceilidh, our Pug, outside to meet Lexi. They sniffed each other and then ignored one another while we went for a walk—one of the first of several that night in an effort to get Lexi to pee!

After several half-hour walks, Lexi went to our back patio window and began to pee in the house around midnight (an unbelievable 20 hours after her last pee). Mary Doug found her and said “No, Lexi … wait.” Lexi leapt across the bed – but forgot to turn off the faucet. Ah well … several loads of laundry later and a few more walks (without peeing), and we all turned in.

After an uneventful, but short night, I arose at 5:00 am. Lexi seemed to think that this was the normal time to get up. I immediately took her for a 35 minute walk – with no elimination of any sort. [Nothing like a brisk walk on a Sunday morning!] Mary Doug and I conferred and decided that this could be a bladder problem… we called our vet and made an appointment.

Dr. Huggins and the (very familiar) staff at the Granville Island Clinic oohed and aaahhhed over Lexi. The decision was to take a “sterile sample” by inserting a needle into Lexi’s bladder through her tummy to find out whether she had a bladder infection. We were told that Lexi licked the technicians’ faces non-stop while this procedure was underway. Results would be back the following day. [No infection was found.]

Home we went and on for a walk before going into the apartment. Immediately after arriving home from her procedure, Lexi peed—an enormous pee!

So we began a week of getting to know each other—Lexi, me, Mary Doug, and Ceilidh. We began with the first night’s phone call to the North Idaho Boxer Rescue to let them know that Lexi had arrived home safely. In conversation, Mary Doug learned that Lexi’s original name was “Freckles.” Ahaa! This explained why she didn’t respond when we called her “Lexi”—at all! We started to call her Freckles/Lexi … with some response. More often we called her Freckles (with good response) … and to this day, we have to pause to think of exactly what to call her. She gets variations of: Flexi, Sassy, Freckie, Lexi, or a pregnant pause … depending on the moment. My feeling is that we’ll probably go with Freckles for a time until she’s settled. A friend suggested we call her “Freckle.” We quite like this variation and it will still sound familiar to her.

As we approach our two-week anniversary it’s amazing how much more relaxed Lexi/Freckle is each day. She sleeps soundly through the night until 7:30 or later. She doesn’t seem to have a lot of experience with commands—in English at least. Mary Doug tried telling her “siente” and she sat immediately. Is she just really smart or was she trained in Spanish? Who knows? She really is very, very smart though and is learning quickly. We’re working on recall, sit, stay and wait for now.

Freckle(s) and Ceilidh are getting along fairly well. The second day we had a little bit of a kerfuffle around food—Freckles hadn’t figured out that there is way more love and food than she can ever use. We keep the two of them separate now around food and all seems well. They cuddle on the dog couch/in the window bed, etc.

Each day Freckles seems to be more confident and is more independent. She’ll now sleep in her window bed while we’re at the other end of the apartment. She is quite clingy though and sticks very close to us for the most part. She is a very beautiful Boxer with lovely white socks and a bit of white on her neck and part of her face. As most of you know, she’s had an accident and some kind of damage to her muzzle. Her lip gets caught up on the right side and her tongue droops out between ½ to 1 inch—depending. When she’s tired, that side of her face seems to droop a bit as if she’s had some nerve damage. It’s a very endearing characteristic and makes us smile a lot. Other than that, she seems pretty healthy. Dr. Huggins says that her heart sounds good—always a concern with Boxers. She’s pretty regular with her elimination now – pees 2-3 times a day and has just started marking various parts of the neighbourhood. And after day two, she made it clear that she expected to have something MORE than kibble. She smelled Ceilidh’s food (oatmeal, veggies and cooked ground turkey) and was quite indignant to be given kibble on its own! So … Freckles is now thriving on kibble and a mixture of oatmeal and cooked ground turkey. We’ll switch her over to a home diet in time.

We know that we have a long way to go before Freckles will really know that this is her forever home. Whenever we go out in the car or when someone comes to the apartment she clearly believes that she’s going to be passed on to another home. We’ve been making a point of going out and leaving Freckles and Ceilidh alone (in separate rooms so far) for 1-2 or so hours every day. Freckles seems very claustrophobic with her crate so she has the full run of the living room and hallway. She’s never touched a thing and is extremely joyful when we come home—a truly beautiful thing to see! We’ve set up a tape recorder to hear how she handles the first 45 minutes of our absence. Apart from the occasional small whine or moan, she sounds fairly relaxed. And she doesn’t seem particularly stressed when we get back. She is a terrific girl and as always, we are so inspired by the forgiveness and patience that creatures seem to have. We’ll have more later as the story unfolds.

Welcome to Freckle & Ceilidh’s blog

Ceilidh & Freckle resting by the fire Since adopting Freckle, our third Boxer (yes, our third!) in November 2006, we decided to document our experiences as life with a new rescue girl unfolds. Once you jump on the merry-go-round (aka bring home a rescue dog), it seems that the world becomes a blur and after a while it’s difficult to remember all of the moments that made you smile … or laugh out loud. And then, when our canine family members leave us to wait at the Rainbow Bridge, many of the memories of those precious day-to-day events seem to slip away.

Freckle and Ceilidh’s blog is our way of trying to capture some of those day-to-day events.