For Better or Worse, In Sickness and In Health

I hope you are all enjoying summer with your friends and family, especially the furry ones! Because, as we so often say, they are our family and our best friends. They take us as we are and are utterly committed to us, no matter what. And we do the same with them for them, for better or worse, in sickness and health. So I want to talk a little about some of commitments we’ve made to some of the lovely pets here in our care.

Atlas

If you haven’t met Atlas, just imagine if your favorite, most comforting stuffed animal toy as a child came to life and grew to 80 pounds, and you get close to what it’s like to be around Atlas. He’s a big guy with a big heart, gentle and simple. Unfortunately with Atlas, as we often see in the human world, those least deserving of trials and tribulations seem to get an extra share sometimes. Atlas’s story, as far back as we can trace it, begins with him being found stray in Florida in late 2016. At that point, he had already been through some hard times, as evidenced by the scarred and hairless spots on his back and side. But his gentle manner came through and an effort was made to get him out of the high kill shelter he was in and into a rescue up north. He was taken in to a rescue in Connecticut, where they started to address some of his health concerns, which included an infection in his elbow. After several months, Our Companions was approached as another home that might be better suited to finding Atlas his forever family. We immediately got to work on his health issues and his persistent elbow infection. We started treatments that, after some time, seemed to clear things up, but before the course was complete, he came down with anaplasmosis, a tick borne illness that can be very serious. He was in rough shape for a while, but with daily attention, we were able to get him back on his feet. Which, of course, is when his elbow infection returned. We worked him through that again, only to then find a growth on his neck that turned out to be a thyroid cancer. He went through surgery for that a few weeks ago, after which, the oncologist said there was no need for any further treatment, just monitoring the site for any return. Which brings us up to right now, and yet another recurrence of his elbow infection. He’ll be having another surgery in a few days that will hopefully fix up his elbow for good. It’s been a long road for everyone’s favorite giant teddy bear.

 

Tabby

Similarly, with the cats, we have a challenge of a different stripe by the name of Tabby. You’ll be seeing a big promotional push behind in the next couple of months, since Tabby has now been a resident here for almost four years. So what could earn a cat such a long tenure in our care? She’s been on a long journey to where she is today. Her nervous disposition reared its head in full force after coming to the sanctuary. She was no longer able to live with the people she knew her whole life, and as you can imagine that will make anyone upset. Arriving at the sanctuary, it was clear that she was not a confident cat. When she arrived in 2014, she spent most of her time hissing, trying to scratch and bite us, and obsessively over grooming. Many very brave volunteers “took the plunge” and spent time with her when she was ready for visitors, knowing full well that she was just very scared and confused. Gradually, and with abundant patience, staff and volunteers were able to inch their way closer on to her good side. Once Tabby realized that these humans could be just as pleasant as her old ones, she started to relax. Her mood improved through behavioral intervention and modifications to her room to calm her worried mind. Today, her core group of volunteers know that she’s just as sweet, lovable, and deserving of a good home as the rest of ’em. Since she has improved, there have been only a few incidents of her fearful aggression – a marked reduction from when she first got here! She loves to sit (or rather, stand) on our laps, and sleep next to us while giving us kisses. Currently, Tabby lives a quiet life in Jane’s Place, but, on our scale of Green, Yellow, and Red cats, is our only Red Cat. This makes it more of a challenge to get her the social time she needs, though the staff and our most experienced volunteers are always up for some Tabby snuggle time. Tabby has made immense progress here, but now it’s her time to move on to a home that can love her not in spite of her ups and downs, but because of them. A home that understands that this type of cat needs a second chance in life, and that even the cats with a troubled past can have hearts of gold. Her sensitive nature is going to make someone very happy when the right person comes along. They’ll know this cowardly lion is ready for a new start and a lap to call her own.

This is what we do at Our Companions. We take in the dogs and cats, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, and we make a commitment to be there for them, in every way.

Make Sure You Are Sitting For This One!

Our Companions is well known for creating a better environment for shelter animals by trying innovative ways to house them so that they are less stressed and improving/learning as they await their forever home. Our adoption process has followed in these footsteps as well by slowly integrating our shy/scared dogs into their new homes. Our amazing adopters start this unique process with the dog by bringing them home for that afternoon to get them comfortable. This process graduates to overnight trips and weekend excursions. This helps these dogs settle into their new life at an appropriate pace and helps the adopters to see how their new family member will react to a new lifestyle (videogames, hair dryers, neighbors, etc). We’ve been working with some amazing adopters over the past few months who have put in a ton of effort and patience to win over Lucy – and it worked! Lucy, who has been at the Sanctuary for 4.5 years, will be going home next week!! Sit back and enjoy one of their recent sleepover recaps and know that Lucy is one lucky pup!

Lucy was a pro in her crate last night and today. After her walk Wednesday afternoon, I put Lucy in her crate and walked to the mail box and back (very slowly) that was a 20 min trial run. She acted like nothing and I did what Marie said, just let her out didn’t make a hullabaloo about letting her out. She was absolutely fine.

The moment we have all been waiting for arrived last night when Dan got home. Apparently, Lucy had never seen Dan in his suit and tie before. When he got home it was about 6:30/6:45. Lucy and I were in the room upstairs reading so everything was quiet. When she heard the front door open and she heard footsteps coming into the house (she couldn’t see who it was from that angle in her spot on the couch), Lucy barked and growled at the closed bedroom door..

When Dan came into the room she wasn’t sure about his suit. So he sat on the couch and ignored her barking. But he threw some of her special bakery treats (pumpkin, peanut butter, & egg from a Dog bakery in Wallingford) and she settled down and ate the ones farthest from him and then made her way towards him and eventually ate them out of his hand. She would not, however, sit next to him on the couch until he changed.

At around 8PM, we went to dinner at the wooden spoon and Lucy stayed in her crate for about an hour alone. Again, no incidents, acted totally normal when we got back. Hopped right into her spot when we let her out.

Then we watched some SVU as a family

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and went to bed. Lucy slept between us but cuddled with Dan mostly. I was supper jealous, but I’ll take it. 🙂

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Since October is Pitbull Awareness month, Lucy took a photo with her Abigail the Pitbull flower

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Her walk with Dan this morning went off without a hitch. She cons him into taking her deep in the woods so she can do her business. He enjoys every second of her affection and their adventures alone. I try to give them space to bond and she is so good about leaving the house without me now! Her meals went off seamlessly.

I let her out again before I went to class at around 11:30AM. And she was in her crate until about 2:45PM. Then she got another walk (30 mins) and I dropped her off at the sanctuary around 3:30.

I just had to console Dan that she wasn’t going to be here when he got home. The house feels so empty without her now. We can’t wait to put her on our Christmas card this year as she already feels like a part of the family!

Lucy, in her very own Christmas card! No need to share the spotlight this year! We are so happy for her!

Mini-dog Mayhem!

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We don’t often get many little dogs staying with us here the sanctuary.  So, it has been quite the experience having three pint sized pooches here at once!  But don’t let their miniature size fool you.  They pack just as much trouble as the biggest lab or pit bull!  So let’s meet our tiny terrors.

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Cody is a 5 year old chihuahua mix who has been with us for a few months.  He likes to play ball and spend time around other dogs.  However, there may be a chance that he thinks he is a cat, since he most certainly does not like people paying him too much attention and cannot deal with changes to his routine.

 

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Lulu is Cody’s 10 year old partner in crime.  If Cody might think he’s a cat, then Lulu surely thinks she’s a lion.  While she’s always ready for some quiet snuggling from humans, if you get her around other dogs, be ready to hear her roar!

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And rounding out our pack of pint sized pooches is Mitch.  Whether it’s jumping up on you, tugging on the leash or your sleeve, trying to untie your shoes, or stealing any towel in sight, it’s all part of a day’s fun for him.  Just watch your fingers when it’s time to put his harness on.

Now, lest you think we’re ones to let these cuties get away with whatever they want, all three have been attending Canine College classes with our dedicated (and brave) volunteers, and are showing great improvement.  In no time, we’ll have these diminutive delinquents on the straight and narrow and behaving as the happy doggy citizens we know they can be.

It’s all part of the work we do here at the Our Companions Animal Rescue Sanctuary.

Lab Work

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As Our Companions decides which dogs to bring in to our sanctuary, the question always arises of how much and what kind of work will be necessary to get the dog to the point of being adoptable.  Sometimes it’s medical work, sometimes it’s behavioral work, and sometimes it’s both.  Sometimes we know going in that a dog will need lots of work, and sometimes the dog won’t need much work at all.  Bentley was a dog we knew would be challenging, but he was still full of surprises.

 

Bentley was a young lab mix with an cruciate ligament tear who, needed some training and some TLC.   We handle these kinds of things all the time.  But as he spent some time hear, we realized that things were worse than we knew.  In addition to the cruciate ligament tear, he had luxating patellas in both knees, and some wear on his hips and back as a result of those bad knees.  He also had a high level of frustration, as a puppy in too much pain to play, and, once he became comfortable with people, was prone to lots of nipping and mouthiness, and other inappropriate interactions.  He was going to be much more work than we originally thought.

But the sanctuary staff and volunteers were up to the task!  We put in place strict handling instructions that gave him the consistency and control to learn a better way interact with people.  We enrolled him in Canine College classes that worked his mind and gave him the skills and confidence to be the good dog he wanted to be.  We set up for a canine massage therapist to work with him on a weekly basis and brought him to canine physical rehabilitation.  And when all that didn’t quite do the trick, we made arrangements for a much needed knee surgery to get him moving better.  The whole team came together, and Bentley blossomed into a sweet, happy boy.

 

 

And, as always, fate smiled on our hard work.  His rehab therapist fell in love with the good boy under all the bad behavior, and decided his home should be with her.  He is now recovering with the best of care, under the watchful eye of his new mom and two canine “sisters.”  Bentley was more work than anyone imagined, but well worth the effort.

More From The Expansion Construction

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A big view of the new buildings.

The new dog cottages are looking good!

We’ve got walls!

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A first look at the updated dog room doorway design.

Front and back views of the new cat cottage.

Drywall going up in in the cat cottage!

Thank you all so much for your help and support of this project!  We couldn’t be more excited!

Rosie’s Recovery

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You would think that anyone who saw this face would fall instantly in love with Rosie, but there was a time when she was treated with very little love.

Rosie came to us from the Manchester Animal Control.  She had been brought to Bolton Vet neglected and malnourished.  She weighed only 17 pounds and was unresponsive.  They worked hard to keep her alive, though it was not always assured that they would succeed.  But she made it through and, once she was stable, needed a place to complete her recovery.  So, she came to the Our Companions Sanctuary, where we could slowly help her build back her weight and her strength, and assess any behavioral problems her ordeal may have caused.

 

 

It’s a testament to a dog’s resilience and capacity for love, however, that Rosie’s emotional scars were few.  She was a resource guarder, and couldn’t live with another dog or cat, but with people, she was nothing but affectionate.  She loved attention, love to hug and kiss, and made quick friends with everyone.  And she surprised us all by being one of the few dogs we’ve had here who was happy and well mannered with all ages of children.

As Rosie’s body recovered and grew up to an appropriate 45 pounds, we nurtured her mind and spirit as well.  She went to training classes and out on field trips to local state parks.  And she worked with at-risk youth as part of our Buddy Project.  She became a volunteer favorite, at least when she wasn’t untying your shoelaces or trying to sneak a treat from you.

And, as often happens here, it was just a matter of time before the perfect family for Rosie walked through our doors.  They had no other pets, which worked great for Rosie.  However, they did have two toddlers, which would have usually meant that we would not have a dog for them.  But Rosie’s love of little kids made her a perfect match for them.

Rosie now lives in a loving home with a family who will make sure she never knows the kind of hardship she previously experienced again.  And in return, she’ll give them no end of fun, laughter, and adorable, soft-eyed head tilts.

Congratulations, Rosie!

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Hello 2017!

 

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GOODBYE 2016!!!

 

Some of you are happy to see 2016 come to an end and some of you are choosing to look back on the year with all of it’s wondrous and fond memories. The dogs can say the same thing, some of them had a remarkable year and some of them are looking forward to the opportunities that 2017 have to offer. Regardless of the group that we may focus on I think it’s safe to admit that 2017 is going to be a great year and we are ready to welcome it with open arms (and paws!). Here at the Sanctuary we always love to take a moment to reminisce over the past year by looking back on the dogs that we have been able to help.  Some of them have left for their happily ever after and some are still gracing our doorways but one thing holds true, both staff and volunteers are delighted to call them “family”. These dogs have created so many smiles and stories through their interactions with those that spend time with them that they have unwittingly sewn an invisible string of love connecting us all. These dogs are the embodiment of love and we are lucky to have them in our lives.

Welcome, 2017 and all of the memories that you have in store for us.

 

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Is that you, 2017?? WELCOME!!!

 

 

 

Thank You Fall 2016 Interns

Interns are an amazing integration to making the Sanctuary work to its full capacity and we enthusiastically welcome their help and expertise! We’ve recently had to say goodbye to our Fall UCONN interns and we want to thank them all for their great work this semester! Not only were they a huge help with the day to day chores but they also played a big role in the progress that many of our dogs have made over the past few months. This progress has ultimately lead to the adoption of a handful of our dogs! They did many field trips with our dogs (who doesn’t like going off and having fun!) and assisted in executing behavioral and training plans. For example, they worked very hard on Gordie’s and Aspen’s training and even took Gordie, Aspen, and Brody to class some weeks. This was a very dedicated group!

We wish them all the luck in the world for their futures in animal care.

Thank you Brittany, Carolyn, Natalia, and Tiffany!!

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Unemployed No More

jessie-090216bWhat, more than anything in the world, makes for a happy German Shepherd?  A job, of course!  And our Jessie was no exception.  Jessie came to us from a local animal control office, where she had been found stray.  She was not spayed, had a touch of frostbite, and worst of all, had a heart worm infection.  We took her in at the sanctuary, knowing that our staff and our volunteers made us well equipped to guide her through the arduous recovery process.

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Once Jessie arrived, she quickly won everyone’s hearts with her endless affection and lighthearted demeanor.  And boy, did she love to work.  Like any good herder, she always kept a close eye on her flock, namely the staff and volunteers.  She loved meeting and jessie-041916aworking with the other dogs and made some great friends.  Her most valuable job for us was as Henree House hostess, since she could always be counted on to graciously greet any visitor, even small children, and put on a little show.  She also excelled as a Buddy Project dog, helping at risk teens learn dog training skills.  But I think her favorite job could best be described as “tennis ball herder.”

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While Jessie loved all of these jobs, she was definitely missing the one job every dog aspires to:  life long companion to a person of her own.  That person finally came along this summer.  Tim had a traumatic brain injury that had damaged his short term memory.  He was moving into a new home and, while he had great human caretakers, thjessie-071216aere was one vacancy he needed to fill:  a dog to help him through the rough spots and make his life complete.  And we had just the girl for the job.  Jessie and Tim bonded immediately and after a few visits with her, we knew it was the perfect match.  Jessie is now permanently employed, giving her guy unlimited love and support, and of course, chasing down every tennis ball she can.

 

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