Thursday, December 24, 2009

Home for Christmas. One bust dog's little miracle.

Chapter One: This is the Story of Ernie, now known as Monkey. He was one of the 500 or so dogs swept up in the same seven state dog fighting raid that's been filling blogs with excitable chatter since July. He's home for good this Christmas, and I wanted to tell you why that is such a miracle....

We were fated to meet Ernie at an Iowa shelter (Animal Rescue League) during one of our visits to the midwest this past summer. Our job was to evaluate him and his kin of canine victims, file our recommendations and then, court-willing, sort the dogs out for whatever responsible rescue placements we could find.

It's a difficult job, because giving every dog the best opportunity involves making as honest an assessment as you can muster within a tiny window of time under less-than-ideal circumstances (oppressive heat, for one!), then brainstorming the most appropriate placement options to ensure each dog's long-term success. Then comes the task of locating those fabled placement options before the dogs go absolutely nuts in their kennels. With so much at stake, and so many deserving dogs vying for so few qualified foster homes, it's one of the most emotionally taxing jobs a dog lover can sign up for. I'm sure Ernie would say that he feels the same way.

Every dog has a different set of needs, of course. No such thing as a one size fits all bust dog. Some are shy but resilient like Frodo, so need very patient homes. Some are confident like our Vessa and need dog savvy leaders. And some, like Linda's agility contender Audie, have uber-energy that will need to be channeled for the rest of their lives. What kind of dog was Ernie?

Our hearts started thumpin' the minute we saw his tiny self bunny hopping around in his kennel, although he presented some bigger challenges right from the get-go: Great dog, but he was a committed

He exploded out of his kennel in such a hurry that we needed rodeo-star lasso moves to snag him with our slip-lead. He was wired for sound throughout most of his out-time, he practically flew through the air at a toy (including a copper pipe - yum!), he tried rearing up and spitting fire at a dog, and generally did what he could to wriggle right out of his skin in hot pursuit of a good Par-tay.

What fun! - What work! We loved him. He is a performance style staffordshire bull terrier (SBT), meaning, he's a little working dog - smart as all get-up, with drive to spare. Awesome fun and incredibly trainable, but oy-vey, what a handful to most dog homes. With so many dogs in need, this little stinker was going to need a good dose of Santa's magic.

Right: Lara Peterson from A Rotta Love Plus wrangles the wild man during evals.

Below is one of Ernie's 'screen tests' during our get-to-know-you eval in Iowa. Yee Haw! This clip captures the moment we all fell in love.

We knew we better get busy with searching out a spot for the irrepressible Ernie even before the courts made their ruling. Not easy - explosive little brat-dogs aren't exactly an easy sell, and most rescues had already committed themselves.

Thank dog for internet friendships - our last shred of hope came from a staffy bull owning friend who'd been watching with sadness as more and more SBTs were finding their way into the hands of the bad guys (several of Vick's dogs were SBTs as well as TugTug from the Kay County OK bust).

Kristi Johnson (right) was dialed into the SBT world through her own two gorgeous show staffys, but a call for help to her circles bounced back with dead silence. Damn. Letting this little monkey dog go seemed painfully impossible.

Just when we were getting worried, Kristi wrote to say that a talented dog trainer had shown some interest in the funny little bust dog. She liked fast dogs and wanted to see his evaluation videos and learn why the pit bull people were making such a big fuss about him. (Don't you just love how the Internet is making these kinds of connections common place?) Ernie's videos hurled thru cyberspace and not long after, along came the words "I'll take him." We did the happy dance all over the house, then anxiously waited for news of their first date. (In case you missed it, this video shows Ernie with Kristi on jail break day!)

Chapter Two: Lynn Silvis, Ernie-now-Monkey's new person, explains how things looked from her end....

"When the email of a little staffy named Ernie came over my desktop, I nearly hit delete. I just nursed my 10 year old pit mix through a serious immune disorder that left me rather raw and drained my bank account to zero and a earlier this year I got my other dog through cancer, so the timing felt very wrong. While I have been entertaining the idea of adding in another dog a year or two down the road (I wanted a dog to learn Mondio with), I thought the last thing I needed right now was another dog. I kept the email, but resisted opening it for a few days. A second email came and again, I didn't open it. Finally a co-worker who had received the email as well pushed me to at least take a look.

Once I opened it, I knew my resolve was sunk. I went from saying "I do not need a third dog" to, "Why am I thinking about a third dog?" ... to, "I want this dog!" in a few short days.

The more I learned about this little dude, the more I knew he was right for my pack. Bit by bit I received videos of his temperament testing and was very impressed. I was falling in love.

On October 19th, he came home. The first few days I vacillated between intense love and a feeling of, "What the heck am I doing?" He has pretty significant kennel aversion and would wail and throw himself against the kennel in a panic, sometimes shaking the whole house. When he would come out of the kennel he would jump into my arms and wrap his front legs around my neck and tuck his head into my chest and shake.

He was like a little monkey and the name stuck -- "Monkey," silly yet somehow fitting. We spent weeks working this through and now goes into to his kennel on command and while he doesn't exact love it, he will settle down quickly. He obviously had never lived in a house and his explorations were a joy to watch. He nose bumped everything and behaved like a pup -- everything a chew toy! The first week he spent on leash to make sure he was successful with all the rules of indoor living and with my two canine girls. We went slow since we had nothing but time and I wanted him to be adored by girls as much as I adored him.

Ruby, the red pit mix, was the first to accept him -- a play bow was all it took for her. Kya, the black pit, is little tougher to charm as she is more of a people dog than a dog dog, but he was wise enough to approach her slower and snuggled next to her on the couch. She has been in love ever since! I have also been fostering a toy poodle he is friends with --even changes his normally boisterous play style to more gentle and less "bully" when they play. Within two weeks he was sleeping on the bed with all of us like a normal dog and has quickly become a snuggle junkie, spending most of the mornings on my lap while I answer my emails.

Unfortunately, his vet check gave us bad news. He tested positive for heartworm. Luckily, the vet felt it was an early infection, so he would not likely have any lasting problems. My vet was incredibly wonderful and discounted Monkeys treatment by more than half price! The next 8 weeks were a challenge! Trying to convince the busy boy that he needed to be calm was a constant struggle. We spent the weeks learning house manners and basic obedience skills. He loves learning! The more I challenge him, the more he amazes me!

He came though treatment early December with no lasting effects of the infection and was given the go ahead to be a normal dog! Our first night off restriction we spent at one of our training facilities playing unbridled with his girls! I've never seem such a big staffy smile!

Life is good now for the little boy. Now that he is off restrictions, he will start formal training and I will decide what his talents are so we can start him on his way to become an ambassador for the breed and for fight dogs. Whatever we do, I am confident this little guy will be up for anything! His positive attitude is inspiring to all who meet him. The first email I received on him told me he was a special guy and you were all right!

I want to thank all those who help my little Monkey along his journey and helped him find his way to our family. My life is incredibly richer with him here and I already can't imagine life without him! We all love him so much!

Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!!" - Lynn Silvis

Are ya kidding, Lynn? Thank you for sticking your neck out for a goofy little bust dog. Huge thanks also to Kristi for responding when we screamed for help. We just know that Monkey is going to make everybody proud, and we look forward to hearing about your happy adventures together for many years to come.

Merry Christmas to the Miracle Monkey!


who wouda thunk it?? said...

I had a wonderful dog, many years ago, by the same name, and for the same reason! A little Monkey, who would wait patiently at my bedside to see my eyes open, and then pounce on my head with kisses. She lived 15 happy years with me

Lisa Tatsuko said...

Lynn, Bad Rap, all of you, you are amazing! Thank you for the great work you are doing.... and Happy Holidays to you all... * Lisa

Anonymous said...

Monkey sounds exactly like our Staffy Bull Terrier, Sissy. We rescued her from a bad situation and she has been a ball of energy ever since! Love this story!

Leigha said...

How wonderful! I know firsthand that feeling of taking In a rescue with such high energy levels at a time when things are hectic. I rescued my beanie girl jasmine when my other girl jade was dying from terminal cancer. I wanted to wait til jade was gone but jasmine needed us to take her right away. She was so gentle with my sick girl jade and now almost 7 years later we have our still very high energy super smart girl enriching our lives every day. Yay for monkey and all the other special dogs who are worth every crazy moment.

Anonymous said...

amazing story, totally bawling. thanks to everybody involved.

Dianne said...

Are you guys familiar with the ASPCA's Meet your match?

Here are the canine-alities:

Most of the pitties in our shelter are on the high end of green.

Life of the Party
I think everything is fun, interesting and meant for play, especially you. Anything you do, I’ll want to do too. With my own brand of surprises, life with me will keep you constantly on your toes, and the fun is guaranteed. (Socially motivated)

The staff was very reserved when we started this program, when I first started volunteering in 2008.
Now, they swear by it.

Thanks for a lovely Christmas miracle story.

Mike Sweeney said...


Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas to Monkey and all the other animals and humans you have helped through your amazing work!

Susan Cava Ruimy said...

Bravo to all involved - Monkey is adorable! Lynn, you are a rock star for taking in a 3rd. But then again, looking at that couch picture and all the love & peace in it, how could anyone say no?! Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

As I'm getting the house settled for Xmas Eve, I just wanted to send my best Christmas wishes to Lynn for adopting such a great dog, to all the folks who did so much hard work on this rescue and of course to Tim, Donna and all the other Badrap heroes. Here's to another year of success stories.


The Other Sally's Mom said...

What a wonderful Christmas story!

Anonymous said...

Awesome, awesome story! Merry Christmas!!

Unknown said...

Literally broke my heart to think what he had been through but so happy at where he has ended up. Thank you sharing the tear soaked story!

Barbara Ruth Saunders said...

This little guy has the face of a baby! So cute.

Animals Away said...

That looks like a very happy pup. That sweater fits him nicely!