Sunday, April 5, 2015
Today, out of habit, I moved some food away from the edge of the kitchen counter so that the tallest dog nose in the house wouldn’t be able to tug it down to the floor. Suddenly I remembered the tallest dog nose in the house has been gone for two days already.
“Rudy T.” came into our lives on August 23rd, 2014. He had been picked up by Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control the month before. My husband Lindsay and I took our three small breed dogs to the home of Bob Jachens to meet Rudy and brought him home that same day.
Rudy came into the Thulani Program as “Dakota”. He had spondylosis, hip dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy and infected skin from embedded foxtails. His body had been shaved so his coat was coarse but his face was silky soft.
Rudy vocally notified us that he couldn’t stand being separated from us even by just a screen door. He loved snoozing on the lawn and supervised every step of food preparation in the kitchen. His best friend was “Dottie” a seven-pound Chihuahua mix. He loved grooming her which really just produced a slimey, spit-covered tiny dog.
Earlier this year Rudy developed a cough which was diagnosed as megaesophagus with secondary aspiration pneumonia. Mornings involved the whirring of a blender to make his meals and medications into a slurry. I often wondered if the neighbors thought we had a heck of a daiquiri habit at 4 AM.
This past week Rudy stopped eating and water would not make it to his stomach any longer. On Friday, April 3 I took him to the vet and held his beautiful head in my hands and kissed his nose until he stopped breathing and his heart stopped beating.
Later that day my husband said, “I can see there’s a breeze but it feels still.” We hugged and cried missing our big furry breeze.
Christine Hitchner and Lindsay Thompson
When my 12 year old GSD passed away a week before Thanksgiving last year, I was filled with such incredible sadness. He had been with me his entire life. The holiday season was here and I was all alone. Rather than wait, I decided to get another GSD right away. I walked into the Northern California GSD adoption event in San Jose hoping to find a middle-aged sweetheart whom I could provide a loving home. And then I saw her.
Named Niurka T. at the time, she looked at me with her big fluffy smiling face. I recognized her from the website and remembered her being much older than middle-aged. In fact, she was a proud member of the Thulani program. My head told me that she was very senior, not middle-aged and that I needed to find a GSD that was a bit younger. But I looked at her again and my heart was telling me something entirely different! After spending about 20 minutes with her, I knew in my heart that there was absolutely no way I could allow her to spend her remaining days without a forever home. I already loved her.
I named her Greta. She filled my home and my heart with love from the very first day. I had to make a few adjustments at home to ensure Greta was happy and safe. Her legs couldn't support climbing 2 flights of stairs up to the bedrooms, so I put a bed in my family room. I didn't care how funny it looked. I just couldn't fathom being away at work for 10 hours and then retreat upstairs for bed at night. That would be too much time all by herself! Her memory foam dog bed sat comfortably near the dog door and more importantly, near me. I also purchased 70 cinder blocks and built an ad hoc barrier around my pool because I feared her unsteady legs might lead to a fall. They did the trick and she was safe. And she was happy.
Yes, I rescued Greta and gave her a loving home. But the truth is.....she rescued me. She took away my sorrow and she filled my heart with love. But sadly, Greta was in my life for only 3 months and 22 days. Not nearly long enough! Her legs would no longer allow her to stand, and combined with her other health conditions, I had to make the toughest decision of my life. I desperately needed more time with her. I wasn't ready to let her go so soon. But I also couldn't let her continue to live when her quality of life became so poor. Losing Greta has hit me harder than anything else in my entire life. It's been just over 2 weeks and I still cry everyday. Her dog bed is still in its place, as are her food dishes. Only now, her ashes rest atop my fireplace. But she is still in my heart. In such a short period of time, she touched my heart like no other. Greta was special in so very many ways and every time I close my eyes, I see her big fluffy face smiling down at me. Many thanks to Bob Jachens and Brigitte Donner for allowing me the privilege and honor of caring for Greta. She was truly an angel, and she will never leave my heart.
…sometimes the stars need to align to bring about the happy ending we wish for every senior German Shepherd. In the case of this sweet, 10-ish year old red sable lady, her village came in the form of big-hearted doctors and staff at VCA Arden Animal Hospital in Glendale, CA, where, in September 2014, she was brought in as a stray in desperate need of medical care. She was emaciated, deaf, sick with infection and open Pyometra, mammary tumors, and very arthritic. Her prospects were looking dim.
Undeterred, the kind vets at VCA Arden treated her infection, spayed her and, discovering she was micro-chipped, notified the owner of record that she was at their clinic. But no one came to claim her. As weeks stretched into months, she was lovingly cared for by the staff, walked several times a day, doted on, and given a new name: Amelia Faith Shepherd. Despite their efforts, the clinic was unable to find a new home for Amelia, and everyone realized that living in a hospital kennel was not the quality of life she deserved. Everyone wondered what would become of Amelia.
Then, several weeks ago, the stars began to twinkle for Amelia Faith Shepherd, when one of the vet techs shared Amelia’s story with her Nose Work instructor, who also happened to be a Thulani volunteer! Soon, Elaine B. met Amelia and – twinkle, twinkle – the stars moved into alignment. Amelia’s evaluation and circumstances were reviewed and she was accepted into the Thulani Program and was listed for transport as soon as a spot opened up for her. Until then, the kind folk at VCA Arden agreed to keep Amelia in the only home she had known for months. Two weeks later, Amelia’s Amazing Adventure began with a drive up to ‘Thulani central’ where she is now enjoying life in a loving foster home!
Our appreciation for the doctors and staff at VCA Arden Animal Hospital in Glendale, CA knows no bounds. Everyone at VCA Arden truly loved this sweet old lady. Not only did they provide Amelia a safe haven, food and medical care for 6 months, they did so without compensation. And it didn’t stop there; they also sent Amelia off to her new life with a generous care package of food and medication to keep her comfortable as she transitions to her new life. To say they went above and beyond the call of duty is an understatement! You can leave a kind word of thanks to VCA Arden Animal Hospital for their care of Amelia on their FB page: https://www.facebook.com/VCAArdenAnimalHospital?fref=ts
Amelia Faith Shepherd is one lucky girl, and there are many other seniors out there who need a bit of her luck, too. You can help us save more senior GSDs by becoming a foster or adoptive home. http://thulanidogs.org/donate-support/foster/
Jacco was rescued last Saturday and is now safely in the Thulani Program (thulanidogs.org), but unfortunately his ordeal is not over. He went through a terrible time recently, and probably even before that. He was turned into the shelter severely malnourished and emaciated. He probably had been neglected for a considerable time. And then he was held in a shelter run for two months, on an evidence hold. Concrete floors, limited exercise, and limited human company—just a horrible situation for a German Shepherd. Today his muscles have atrophied, his hips are arthritic, he can barely walk short distances without dragging his hind feet and eventually falling.
Thulani is going to help him get there in any way we can. We don’t know how much of his mobility issues were caused by the shelter stay, but we are going to try to reverse the damage with good food, gentle care, and physical therapy. As you well know, PT can be expensive and time consuming, so if anyone can help us fund the PT, we would be very appreciative.
It’s hard to remember that Greg T. is a foster dog. He’s the second best dog I’ve ever had in my whole life. (Who could replace the Mighty Fine Black Dog Constance of blessed memory? She was a forty- five pound black and tan shepherd mix with tan eye dots and feet, and white/gray/tan underbelly and chest and butt, and a white tail light, who was with me for nine of her thirteen years.) But enough about the MFBD Constance. The VFTD Greg is a 45-47 lb. German Shepherd/Malinois of an indescribable tannish reddish blonde color with pharaoh eye makeup. Very handsome. He has a pinched nerve midway down his back, which gives him problems in his back legs, with concurrent pain, managed with medications. Voracious appetite. Exceedingly healthy. A Very Fine Thulani Dog.
Greg has never seen a dog he didn’t want to meet. In the first part of the fourteen months he’s been with me, he loved to play with anyone who wanted to. More recently, he’s not allowed, lest he get dumped and twist his back. Sad Greg T. But oh, how it hurts when he gets knocked over. Greg can see dogs from great distances, long before I can, and suddenly, we are stopped still, waiting, with me discovering why until dog and person come into sight. The view of sky and ocean from “our” cliff is remarkable, so I get to take it all in while I wonder why we’re stopped. Over the months, Greg now has to, has to, greet Joey, Chloe, Zoe, Crystal, Bella, Bella, Bella, Bella, and Bella, Sunshine and Floyd, Bennie and Clyde (sic), Buster, Jack and Marley, Marley, Buddha, Frank, Maisie, Rosie, Rosie, Rosie, and Rosie (from fifteen pound terrier mix to Great Dane), Mowgli (R.I.P.), Trace, Rambo, et al., as well as all the others, visitors and friends alike.
Or, it could be that Greg has heard or scented a Gopher, the Great Threat to the stability of the cliff. He has waited as long as forty minutes for the Gopher, aforementioned a Great Threat, to surface, even if it backfills its hole, travels underground, and digs a new hole a foot away. Greg usually pounces a few seconds too soon. Occasionally, he times it just right, and is immensely proud he has actually caught one. The Great Gopher Hunter abandons his trophy to warn the residual gopher community that it is Dangerous and they should find Another Place to Live. Or maybe that’s what he thinks. One never knows with a gopher dog. The requisite patience makes gopher dogs very rare, and the opportunity to learn their body language of satisfaction or intention is therefore equally rare.
One thing that Greg makes very clear is that his car window should be opened. He loves road trips, however short, with head in the wind on the surface streets, garnering almost as much admiration as he does on the cliff. The sight of him in my rearview mirror entertains me every time.
Did I just mention admiration on the cliff? One of our regular walks is on the cliff above Capitola Village. Among the regular dogwalkers and bench sitters, Greg has many fans, not to mention the tourists and family visitors who frequent the path for views and magnificent photographs of the ocean, sky, and wildlife (some have thought Greg looks like a fox). Lots of petting, lots of treats, lots of foraging for any people snacks or cat truffles left behind, not to mention the life-threatening chicken bones, etc. Used to be, I was on constant lookout for bad snacks, and never got to look up to the sky or sea. The day he got a rotting bird carcass, a mussel shell, and a fast food ketchup packet, we came to an understanding. Since then, he wears his basket muzzle as a food filter. He sticks his snout in it as matter-of-factly as having his leash clipped to his collar. With it on, he can pant, yawn, and drink. If approved snacks come along, off comes the basket. Of course, if he goes into gopher hunt position, the basket is immediately removed for better gopher getting possibility. Yes, he does snout some people in invitation to have it removed. They don’t. If he fools me into taking it off, he’s nose to ground, snorfling for snacks; infrequently, he continues to pay attention to that human he was snouting because he remembers that person’s excellence as a masseur. Massage must be better than snacks. Understand, if you will, that walks always come after he’s already had a full meal. It’s not like he’s starving. They say he was abused in his first three years; perhaps food deprivation was part of that.
My first two Thulani foster dogs were twelve years old when they came to me; each was very old. Greg came to me at twelve years, and was very young. Many people thought he was a puppy. He’s still very healthy. Except. Except. The pinched nerve in his back has gotten worse, accelerating over the last three months. Now, he lets me lift him up and down the three steps to the porch, and in and out of the car. The increasing pain makes him a little more ornery. He sits down more often while I chat with people on the cliff. He still prefers the long walks, only severely crippling to manipulate against leaving the park; he doesn’t want to go home. What are drivers thinking when he can just barely make it across the street, or collapses right in the middle, while they wait for these two pedestrians? But if he sees a dog, up he gets and proceeds as if we were just starting out. Maybe I should hire a dog to lure him home each time…. After all, there was the day he got knocked over while playing and couldn’t walk for a while. We sat and rested. Then Rufus came along. Greg very slowly lifted himself to his feet and limped on over; he just had to go exchange sniffs with Rufus. That’s what I call a Very Fine Thulani Dog.
Over the months, a lot of people have wanted me to give Greg some or another miraculous method cure for his difficulty walking. After trying to communicate that it was his back, not his legs, and wanting to be polite, I hid behind saying that the Thulani program would probably not pay for homeopathy, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, etc., etc. Last week, Joan, a dogwalker, recognized Greg’s walk as the same nerve problem her previous dog had had, which had been completely solved with surgery. She gave me her dog’s ramp, suitcase handle harnesses for lifting Greg when he was having particular trouble, and an assortment of other goodies which are now at Thulani central for use with other Thulani dogs. At a recent visit to Greg’s regular orthopedic vet, we were told that Greg’s problem is now fully neurologic, and a referral was given for a neurology specialist veterinarian whom GSRNC has used before.
Here’s the good news. After a consult with a neurologist, the VFT Greg is now on prednisone and is walking sooo much better. On the other hand, he has to go out much more frequently, rain, storm, fog, or shine, dawn, dusk, or darkest night. I’m seeing some beautiful dawns and sunsets, and amazing tides raking the beach. But, oh the rain. Greg doesn’t mind the rain, but parts of him hurt in the being toweled off afterward; thus, he has a shiny new raincoat and could successfully audition for the roles of Zorro-Dog, Darth-Vader-Dog, or maybe Bat-Dog. But his most likely role for which to be Academy Award nominated is as the Very Fine Thulani Dog Greg T.
Submitted by AnnLining Smith Foster to Greg T., the Very Fine Thulani Dog
Below is a video clip of Joey before he started his physical therapy. Good Luck Joey!
I rescued your dog today…
Did you know that he’s lost weight?
Did you know he’s scared and depressed
And seems to have lost all faith?
I rescued your dog today…
He had fleas and a little cold;
Guess you don’t care what shape he’s in,
You abandoned him I am told.
I rescued your dog today…
Were you having a baby or moving away?
Did you suddenly develop allergies,
Or was there NO reason he couldn’t stay?
I rescued your dog today…
He doesn’t play or even eat much;
I guess he’s very sad inside and
It’ll take time for him to trust.
I rescued your dog today…
And here he is going to stay;
He’s found his FOREVER home
And a warm bed in which to lay.
I rescued your dog today…
And shall give him all that he will need;
Patience, love, and security,
So he can forget your selfish deed.
Fortunately, unlike her namesake, our Giselle (T) did not die of a broken heart. In fact, she did not die of anything, although she seemed bound and determined to scare us with the possibilities.
Our Giselle is a 13 year old senior that was dumped at a shelter—not a great way to have your like expectancy enhanced (she did not yet need The Wills to bring her back). And there they discovered a huge foreign abdominal mass, one so large that they could not feel her various organs. Not looking promising.
Trying to prevent a need for the services of The Wills, the Facebook posse rode out on her behalf, saturating the blogosphere with hundreds of pleas to help her. What an uprising!
Better yet, Karen Barnes and the Thulani Program stepped up to rescue her and immediately took her over to the Pet Care Veterinary Care Center in Los Angeles for surgery. There they found not one, but TWO huge, grapefruit-sized ovarian tumors, and what looked like the remains of half a plastic food bowl in her stomach (don’t look at these pictures unless you have a strong stomach). At this point, things were looking pretty grim, but that was the low point.
The surgery was successful, Giselle is recovering nicely, and—drum roll—THE TUMORS WERE BENIGN. Giselle is presently getting into mischief at her foster home and enjoying every moment of it.
We may yet turn The Wills loose on the jerks that dumped her at the shelter, but for now, Giselle could care less. Please help us find a retirement home for her—all medical expenses will be paid for the rest of her life.
In the summer and early fall of 2012, a few people got together to see what they could do to help all the German Shepherds they were seeing that were dying in southern California shelters. After talking for several weeks, they decided their best route would be to work with reputable rescues to move the dogs to places they could be adopted – where GSDs weren’t as common. Their idea was to navigate the complicated California shelter system FOR the rescue. Partner with the shelters, temp test the dogs, arrange with a rescue partner for the “pull”, arrange vet, board, and transport to the rescue – AND to raise the funds to do it. They wanted to do this – to deliver the dog to the rescue – without the rescues having to figure all this out – taking away from the important job of taking care of the dogs, and getting them adopted. Rescues already HAVE too much work to do! After months of planning, Miracle GSD Network was formed, and “pulled” their first dogs in October 2012 from the Coachella Valley Shelter in CA for Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Rescue.
Miracle GSD Network only works with a select few rescues that they have thoroughly checked out, and have processes in place that employ good and transparent rescue practices. Since 2012 they have built a partnership with several rescues and shelters, and with many people on the “ground” assisting with temp tests, fostering, and transporting. They have earned the trust of so many people in rescue. This small group of people is spread out all over the country – Arkansas, California, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts and North Carolina.
Miracle GSD Network is PROUD to partner with the Thulani Program, to save Senior & Hospice German Shepherds – a cause near & dear to their hearts. Miracle GSD Network is an “informal” organization dedicated to helping rescues navigate the difficult shelter system by coordinating “pulls” of dogs in need. Visit (ask to join) our Facebook page – it is a HAPPY PLACE – where we post updates of all our “Miracle Dogs” – to date over 450 saved: