Nibbles-the journey continues

So yes, Nibbles in now my dog. I didn’t want a 4th dog, I didn’t want Nibbles, but when the head of the rescue group responsible for him (legally that is) told me they were going to send someone to my house to pick him up and transport him a 7 hour car ride and plane or ferry ride away, I panicked. I had been in communication with the person who was going to adopt him. She’d never met him, and despite my efforts did not seem to understand that I was not just a fussy foster mom worried about her fur baby.

Nibbles and the other dogs from his breeder who were ‘rescued’ went through hell. It was not meant to be hell, and as far as ‘rescues’ go, it wasn’t as bad as some, but for dogs who had never been away from their home, or the dozens of other dogs in it, being put into crates, transported and left alone in barn stalls, it was pretty darn scary. Some of the dogs managed well, others not so much. Of the dogs that I knew or or heard about, at least 3 had run away from their new homes, including Nibbles. One was found a few days later, Nibbles 3 weeks later, and one-never. It’s fair to assume she is dead. Small dogs afraid to approach people don’t stand much of a chance in the woods of Vermont.

I had worried about Nibbles for the weeks he was missing and when he was found offered to take him on and see if I could help him with his fears. For months I worked with him and never heard from the rescue group claiming ownership of him. It wasn’t until someone decided they wanted a fearful dog, just like the one their friend had adopted (another from the same breeder bust) that I was told to either deliver him myself, which I would have done to help him through the transport and transition into a new home, or hand him over to strangers. But when I couldn’t do it ‘right away’ I was told that he would be picked up, and that was that. When the adopter told me ‘not to worry, he’ll be fine’, I felt sick. There was a chance that Nibbles would be fine, but I had seen what ‘not fine’ looked and sounded like for him, and there was an even better chance that there would be a lot of ‘not fine’ first. Someone owed this dog for all the extremely ‘not fine’ he’d already endured. It might as well be me.

Life here would be easier without him. Just this morning he chased a jogger and I was on the phone trying to hire neighbor kids to go by the house so we could work on not chasing joggers. For the past two months we’ve been attending agility classes. There is a supportive trainer who lets me come to classes with my special needs dogs and work with them as I need to. The class also forced me into doing more work to help Nibs feel better riding in the car. Last week on our way to class #8, along with the help of an anti-anxiety medication we finally had a tremble-free ride. Hopefully with a few more of those under his collar Nibbles will be able to relax in the car, which will make rides more enjoyable for both of us.

Here’s a clip of Nibs at agility. Keeping track of little dogs is a bigger challenge than I imagined!

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25 comments so far

  1. Jen on

    I’m surprised by and disappointed in the rescue group. “Fearful” doesn’t mean “oh, he’ll get over it”. I don’t have a fearful dog and I know that. Thank you for being willing and able to stand up for Nibbles needs and keep him, even if that wasn’t really your intent.

    The agility video was very cute ^^

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks Jen. I was incredibly frustrated by the woman from the rescue group I had to deal with. My concerns were unheeded and when I said I wanted to adopt him she told me that the other adopter could decide whether she wanted him or not. Imagine- letting someone who wants to adopt a dog decide who ends up with him. But I had made enough of a pest of myself apparently that the adopter wanted ‘nothing to do with me or my dogs’. I can’t say I minded.

  2. rangerskat on

    Selfishly, I’m glad you ended up with Nibbles. His issues sound a lot like those my Fearful Finna exhibits. The difference is that at 50 lbs she’s a lot scarier than a dog small enough to be picked up. I know I’ll be learning a lot as you write more about Nibbles and that much of it will be a help in my journey with Finna.

    That said, I’m sorry you had this bad experience with the rescue organization. It seems to me that there are a whole lot of well meaning people who don’t really know what they are doing involved in rescue along with quite a few control freaks. It’s awful when people who should pay attention won’t listen to you. Yay, for Nibbles though as he’s in the best hands he could be.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks! Nibbles has a lot going for him, unlike Sunny, who is much more debilitated by his fear issues.

      One of my concerns for Nibbles was that he has what I call ‘little sh*t’ potential. This kind of behavior if often tolerated in small dogs or punished. Nibs, more easily than some dogs, can learn not to charge after and bark at people. That he’s not as scary as a bigger dog does make it slightly better for me when it happens, but it also means that if he and Sunny happen to be outside together, Nibbles can pull Sunny along with his reactivity. And Sunny is scary when that happens.

  3. May on

    I too am thankful that you ended up with Nibbles. I hope you both learn a lot from each other and we can continue learning from you!! Here’s to patience, gentle guidance, and trustworthy love.

  4. diana on

    re: the video clip – i think using your legs as weave poles is too cute and very enterprising 😉

    i’m sure you’re right that life would be easier w/o nibbles, but i’m almost as sure it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting 🙂
    i personally believe that coping with challenges = growth and i have faith that if anyone can do it, you can!
    just keep repeating the mantra ‘this is for the best’ (and it really is, debbie, it really is).
    you’re not still fostering for this group are you?

    • fearfuldogs on

      I didn’t even realize who I was fostering for to begin with. I got the dog from HSUS. They went in and pulled the dogs and were the only folks I was ever in contact with about him. I didn’t realize it was initiated by another group until I got an email from the head saying she’d found a home for him, months after I had him.

      Funny you should mention the weave poles.

  5. honeysjourney on

    Life would be sooooo much easier without Nibbles, Finna, Honey and most recently Jasper, but it isn’t going to happen any time soon. Somehow or other when we really get involved with these guys and gals we seem to get very protective over them. Especially when they give us that well known ” I need your help with this” look.

    I had a similar message regarding the latest foster with “I’ll take him off your hands.” Trying to be polite, I just sent a short reply “thanks, I’ll let you know” then deleted the message never to be seen again.

    Way to go Nibbles, enjoy the rest of your days you lucky sh*t disturber you.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks George. I made the mistake early on of telling a potential adopter that I’d rather not place him with someone who used CM techniques for training, as this person did mention in the questionnaire. Yikes. Should have just said ‘I’ll let you know’. Instead of asking me ‘why?’ I was assailed with all kinds of rubbish.

      I guess we’re all living and learning.

  6. Frances on

    Can I offer you thanks, from Nibbles? There will be times I am sure when it is hard work, when you wonder how much easier life would have been if you’d made a different decision, when he winds you up to near screaming point and you think how happy life might be with some big, soft wuss of a pup instead … but for one small dog your actions have probably made the difference between a life of freedom and happiness, and a possibly very short life of confinement and coercion, anxiety and fear. So, on behalf of Nibbles, until the day he can say it himself, thank you.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks Frances. You can tell Nibs he’s welcome!

  7. 2 Punk Dogs on

    Congrats on the new addition, even though that wasn’t your original plan. He’s adorable & the human weave pole demos were great! Sorry you had to deal with a rescue organization that doesn’t seem to get it.
    Nibbles is a lucky dog!

  8. Heather on

    Wonderful that Nibbles trusts you enough to do those weave poles with you. A lot of little dogs don’t always trust being that close. Funny that he lives with 2 border collies and seemed such a natural.

    wish you well on adjusting to life with a 4th dog. I, too, commend you on making that decision for Nibbles. I’m trying my first fostering right now and I can only imagine what it meant to Nibbles for you to tell him he was staying while also recognizing that you and the rest of the family will adjusting.

    • fearfuldogs on

      This is my first little dog Heather, though I discovered yesterday that he’s up to 15lbs (all muscle weight according to Nibbles so no need to cut back on the treats). I handle him the way I would any dog and find myself some days looking at him and marveling that it’s as though someone shrunk him. He behaves like a dog, looks like a dog, he’s just little.

      We lost our old cocker last spring, I was sad about that but was dreaming about one day having only 2 dogs to cover expenses for. And, if I dared to dream, to once again have dogs who easily melded into our life. Now every outing is an event to be planned and managed.

      I joke and say that my easiest dog is a border collie, if that gives you an idea of what the other 3 are like 😉 But I enjoy them all. Finn my border collie is my rock. Go anywhere, meet anyone kind of guy. Annie is my ‘cute’, with an enthusiasm for training that I rarely provide enough of for her. Sunny steals my heart with every wag of his tail and paw raise. Nibbles is the first to jump on me and lick my face in the morning. It’s not a bad team.

      • Heather on

        Sounds like everyone has a good thing going. My foster is a BC. His story would parallel Sunny’s as he came to me as a very shut down boy, from puppy mill of 167 survivors. He’d go outside and hide, then come inside and hide. thankfully, we have a good rescue who knew what they had taken on better than I.

        And, yes, now, he steals my heart with the tail wag. Or he’ll shoot a glance at me as he gets excited or happy. it’s contagious to feel like we’ve been given the key to their safety zone. My girl gets me going in the morning while my (foster) boy heads off in the direction of where the world is waiting for us to start “work.” And sometimes, when my girl goes into reactive mode or forgets her role is to lead and demo the world is safe rather than protect us from all that is evil….i can see where maybe the BC is the easiest.

        I’m sure Nibbles has worked up his muscles on all those agility obstacles. 🙂 I’ve given my boy a taste of agility too. Still in beginning phases. He often got distracted as he thought his classmate, a pug, would make a good substitute sheep!!

        But, after a life of “grabbing the short straw”, I’d say Nibbles finally drew a good one. Continued success to you.

      • fearfuldogs on

        Thanks for this very kind and generous comment. I appreciate it.

  9. Kay Liestman on

    What a lucky little guy is Nibbles!

  10. Julie Keyer on

    I am so thankful to have found your blog, website and book. Thank you! We normally foster geriatric whippets for WRAP (which have their own set of issues) but recently got a phone call from a friend who works at a vet about an hour away. They had just gotten in a 4 year old Italian greyhound from a hoarder situation in Binghamton, NY, with approximately 50-60 small dogs. My friend called me and asked if I would be willing to take this dog. My gut reaction was, “but this is not what we do,” then I saw her pictures. The dog had been pulled on March 12, hospitalized, spayed treated for a host of parasites and malnutrition. I picked her up on March 29. She had been called “Breeze” but had no knowledge of this name (in fact she ran away even faster when we called to Breeze or Breezy) so we renamed her Lucy. She appears to have been debarked by the hoarder, but thankfully still has some voice – just very soft.

    I had been doing your roasted chicken trick all week before seeing it on your site. It is also something we do with fearful cats. Lucy will now take chicken out of my hand if I am sitting on the floor.
    Thankfully she seems to like our two whippets, and watches them interact with us as well.
    I know we have a l-o-n-g way to go, but we were so excited when Lucy wagged her tail for us just eight days after coming here. We are seeing more wags and curiosity every day.

    I had been searching on timid dogs, shy dogs, etc…. but wasn’t finding anything that truly described all 7 pounds of trembling fear we had. Finally I found your page after searching on fearful dogs. (I had evidently been sugar-coating Lucy’s problems in my mind calling her “timid.”)Your dogs are so lucky to have you, as are dogs all around the world!
    Thank you!
    -Julie (& Lucy)

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks for taking the time to write and share your story. It’s slow, often frustrating work, but the pay offs when we see a dog with new skills that give them a new lease on life are huge.

      Yay for roasted chicken!

  11. Camille on

    Curious to know what anti-anxiety med. Nibbles is on. I am finally coming around to thinking that meds would help my dogs.

    • fearfuldogs on

      You should talk to your vet about options for your dog. Meds can help many dogs. They are not a magic bullet, we still need to implement a protocol of behavior modification. But they can help us get our foot in the door so to speak to expedite the process. I do have information on the fearfuldogs.com website about some of the meds commonly used.

      I am glad to hear you only have one fearful dog to work with!

  12. Camille on

    I meant dog. Only one……

  13. megan on

    I’m sorry you were put in that situation by the rescue group. Unfortunately, it is all too common because many people involved in the rescue of fearful dogs are just plain naive about their need for continued training and some times, lifelong management. I’ve been in a similar situation and I can certainly understand why you chose to keep him. Had my situation come to it, I would have done the same thing. Nibbles may never really know all of what happened, but he would be beyond thankful if he did.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks Megan. Initially I had not offered to take on any of the dogs because I knew the potential for it being a lengthy, and in many ways, unsuccessful, project. People wanted the dogs and the group adopted them out. I just happened to be in the loop and heard about Nibbles going AWOL from his home. I even went to check out the area where he was last seen, weeks before. Very little was done to actually locate him. When he was found I couldn’t help myself and said I’d take him on. The rest is history.


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