Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Journey Across the Water

"I totally just marked these."
That picture has nothing to do with the story I'm going to tell. Or maybe it does. It was one of so many pictures I took of Cody for use in the blog or on his online adoption profiles.
"Renaissance Man."
Posed and natural pictures. Trying to not only capture who he is, but the eye of folks looking to bring another wonderful soul into their homes.
Yeah, there's the real Cody. Much better.
So why am I posting them now? Because I don't have enough photos relevant to the story to tell it. So enjoy some of my favorite pictures of my sweet, amazing foster boy as you hear about his recent adventure.

So cute when he's sleeping.
We got in a pretty interesting application for him a couple weeks ago. Cody gets a lot of apps. He's a handsome boy, a great size, and he photographs well.

I've learned to never get my hopes up. It hurts too much when it falls through, and Cody is a tough dog to place. So we started the process. Out went the long bio, and then lots of conversation over email. Back and forth, elaborating and clarifying, all of us asking questions.

Next came the AC interview, which they passed with flying colors.
Car rides = best.
Then came the meet up on a Tuesday night. They came in and Cody and his foster sisters mobbed them, to their delight. Treats were handed out, pets and kisses given and received, and his potential adopters were welcomed with that special brand of terrier love.
No touch! Admire only! (squirrel was already deceased)
I settled the girls upstairs and they got to know Cody better. He adored them. He would bounce between them and me, checking in for reassurance. Since I wasn't handing out many treats though, he focused on those handing out the goods! We had some moments of uncomfortable touch and growling. This gave them a chance to see it in action and allowed me to show how to re-establish the connection to break him out of it.

Hot, happy boy.
They had brought a energetic, spitfire of a Jack Russell Terrier, their youngest of two dogs. Her name is Stella, she's 18 months old, and Cody thought she was quite the charmer. Stella didn't feel that way about Cody, and let him know clearly when he came in to try and say hi. Stella wanted to play with toys, not this goomba twice her height and far less interesting than a ball. Cody took it good naturedly, having gotten used to snarky females with his foster sisters. He still thought she was pretty awesome.
Can you blame him?
Saturday was the vet appointment. It was important that Cody be able to adjust as long as he needed with adopters, and that included avoiding vet visits if possible. So a blood test, exam, and refilling prescriptions were on the agenda that day.

Morning ferry ride. Quiet and beautiful.
Sunday we caught an early ferry over to Vashon Island. It was just Cody and I that morning, headed to something we had only done once before - a home visit.
What he did the entire ride there.
We arrived at the Northwest School of Animal Massage. It's a quiet farm with horses, goats, dogs, and a kitty. It also has a beautiful classroom and teaches a variety of programs using massage to enhance the lives of animals. David and Lola run the school, and not only teach on Vashon Island but work with Best Friends in Utah.
Not a fan of rain.
If you're thinking "jackpot!" you're totally right. Lola and David are gentle, caring, loving individuals who Cody took too right away. He was immediately drawn to David and I suspect he'll be David's right hand man very quickly.
More squirrels!
Besides the spitfire Stella, David and Lola have the lovely, sweet, 13 year old Karelian Bear Dog, Darci. We knew from the start Darci would be the challenge, as Cody is pretty intimidated with big dogs. I've done as much work as I could making him more comfortable with the big kids, but it has been a very slow, gradual process due entirely to the limitations of time and available big dogs suitable to use.
Walking with American Bulldog, Poe.
After arriving, Cody met Lola and David again, and the three of us spent a bit of time with Stella. Then it was onto the main event - meeting big black, floofy Darci. I don't have hardly any pictures of our integration since I was actively working Cody most of the time, but here are some shots of the last few minutes of our fourth and final practice over several hours. We did a lot of walking in close proximity, "Monster in the Middle," coming in close before moving further away, and "Look at That."

Nervous with this face to face, but trusting David.

Lola distracts Darci while David reinforces Cody.

Check out Darci's redonkulous underbite! Even cuter in "pawson!"

David asks Cody to take food close to Darci's body.

Lola refocuses Darci back to her.

Cody is still nervous being so close to Darci but still engaged.
Cody moved so much faster than I anticipated, and I think he and Darci are going to integrate very quickly. Darci is such a gentle, easy going girl happy to give Cody his space and Cody is a very, very brave boy. We also made sure to work at Cody's pace. We stopped on positive notes and ended the session before Cody ran out of steam. He rested in the car for 15-60 minutes between sessions, and the three humans had a plan for each session before we began. We had great success in large part due to careful planning, high rate of reinforcement, managing thresholds, and keeping expectations focused on positive experiences regardless of "progress."
Afterwards David and Lola load Cody into my car while I hide.
For the last one I took Darci and "hid" while they said their goodbyes to Cody with lots of treats and love and loaded him into my car.
This is what he did on the way home. And as I'm writing this.
At the end of that wonderful home visit I sent out the email I had dreamed of sending for so long - Foster Parent and Home Visit pass.
I can has oyster forever home?
Cody is adopted. He's going home to Lola and David to be a forever part of their pack with the baby Stella and the elder Darci. He'll be the beloved middle child, living on a beautiful farm in the woods on an island. He will live an amazing life, a life far beyond what I could ever give him, and I don't have the words to express my joy.
 Three years, my sweet baby boy, and it was all worth it. I love you with every part of my soul.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Coffee, Cheese, and Vets

It was time to return to the vet this weekend. Nothing out of the ordinary, just an exam and senior blood panel. Cody isn't a huge fan of the vet, but thanks to the incredible staff at Urban Animal we always have a great visit.

We arrived Saturday morning about 15 minutes before they opened. Already a line had formed. In front of us was a beautiful black shepherd and a charming brindle girl. Their mom and dad told me that the shepherd, Colby Jack, was named for her cheesy grin and was there for a microchip. The little brindle was named Chai, and she was 7 months old and just adopted. During Chai's adoption they realized Colby wasn't chipped! I asked them if I could work Cody close to them and mentioned he is nervous around larger dogs.

Chai and Colby Jack.
They obliged, eager to help out a fellow rescue pup, and Cody and I practiced being close to big dogs without interaction, and going in close and then moving away before anything got scary. Normally not something I get to work on at the vet, but Colby and Chai were great sports as long as their got their share of the treats!

Once inside, Cody hopped on the scale - a svelte 18.8 lbs, a weight he's held steady at.

Onto the exam room! As soon as we got inside it was time to do the most important thing to do at the vet - have fun and PLAY!

 Cody can get pretty nervous at the vet, so anytime we aren't directly interacting with the staff I try to engage him. Sometimes its simple things like asking him to sit in chairs or put his paws up on something and hold it there for me .

Sometimes it's giving him cuddles when he needs touch and reassurance that things are ok.

Or simply looking at him and giving him a sense of connection. Cody relies heavily on his person to feel safe, so even eye contact and a soft face can mean security for him.

Found it!

 Sometimes it's games such as tossing food around the room for him to seek. I think this might be his favorite game, between you and me.

I hear you....

And sometimes just letting him be - like when he's listening and waiting for the vet to arrive.

His patience paid off and he had a fantastic exam. A lot of practice visits have created a vet visit where Cody still gets nervous but with some treats and gentle staff he had a full exam (including tummy to teeth!) without a single growl or incident of reflux - and of course, no muzzle!

Aren't they coming?