About Me

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My name is Lesli Hyland. In my fifty one years on this earth, my home and my heart have been graced with the company of twenty four dogs. Many came to me as seniors. All of them taught me something and helped determine the course of my life. I became a dog trainer because of them. I met my friends because of them. My husband and I are are forever bonded by our mutual connection to them. Currently, as a Dog Walker I have access to other people's dogs and I am allowed to experience their unique personalities. The dogs make me a better person by forcing me to closely examine my motivation, my actions and my choices. Everything I do affects their behavior, safety and happiness. It is an awesome responsibility. The dogs keep me honest.

Monday, January 16, 2012

More on fostering

So here's Tucker , resting peacefully on the couch.  His belly is full from breakfast, his wounds are healing...his eyes flutter open and his tail thumps briefly as I walk into the room. It makes my heart feel good when I look at him. 

This is when fostering becomes REALLY difficult. To me, he looks like he belongs here and he is probably beginning to feel the same way.  How can I possibly uproot him again?  How can I send him on to yet another place to adjust to? He has come so far with me...

The answer lies in the faces of the 5 other dogs in my house.  They are not visibly stressed by Tucker being here.  They are eating, playing and following their normal routines. But a 6th dog is...well...a 6th dog! It means my time is divided that much further.  It means that they have that much less of me... and me of them.

I will not lie.  I am pretty attached to Tucker. He is very endearing.  He is sweet.  He is a big goomba! Will he miss me when he moves onto a permanent home?  I think so.  I know I will miss him.  I know I will cry.  But I have to believe that there is someone out there that will love him like I do and perhaps, that someone will have more of that love available to give him.  He deserves more than being one of six.

So, Tucker is still looking for a home.  While he is here I will love him as my own, but I will hold back a tiny piece of my heart . I will remind myself daily that I am part of his journey, not a destination.  And I will try to believe it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Will the real Tucker please stand up?

My foster Vizsla, Tucker,  has been with us for 3 1/2 weeks now.  He is a quiet dog in the house.  Often I don't know where he is.  He is not clingy any longer, more often choosing to rest on the futon in the living room rather than at my feet like others.  I have practiced leaving him home alone and have been successful for 1 and 2 hour stretches.  I'm pleased with that, as severe separation anxiety is what landed him in the shelter. He is house trained, pretty good off leash and friendly with people.  He can be edgy with new dogs, particularly males, but we already knew that and he has adapted well to my crew.   But as he has settled in he has begun to try to claim some things as his own - namely stuffed toys.  We first noticed a stillness in his posture when approached by us or another dog when he had a toy in his mouth. I made sure he was OK with me touching him, touching toy, taking toy and returning it.  I rewarded him highly and he relaxed.  We watched him more closely with the other dogs. Next we saw him roughly grab a toy off the floor as my other Vizsla, Belle, reached for it.  She displayed appeasement gestures in response to his forcefulness.  OK.  Then we saw him growl at Belle when he had a toy in his mouth and she approached.  OK.  Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.  Today he ran across the room and aggressively tried to grab a toy out of my 14 yr old dog's mouth.  THAT is simply not OK.  So I intervened quickly.  He got a time out and all the toys got picked up.  So there!  He will loose some freedom now, will be supervised more closely and toys will be re-introduced slowly, using counter conditioning to decrease his worry when approached by other dogs. 
Again...this is a process...
Fostering is supposed to be a chance to retrain, restore confidence and relieve stress.  It is not enough to simply house a foster dog and send him on his way, problems intact.  So, Tucker ...looks like we have more work to do!