Rescue Journal

less is more

Carol  ·  Jul. 21, 2013

boomer is so freaking happy here...he got the best of both worlds. he has his little june/mystic BFF's posse to play with, the freedom to run, play, swim when he wants, a nice inside home with good food, comfy beds and couch's, and an extended human famiily who loves him and thinks he is pretty damn cool.

i would think a free roaming northern village dog would have a hard time adjusting to life in the lower mainland..but... he hasn't. he got to come to a place that wasn't too confining, already had some good natured, ready made friends up for a game of tug or tag, and an easy going, dog friendly, willing to share human without a ton of rules or expectations dumped on his head.

i always feel sorry for project know the ones..easy to identify.... they are the ones we humans talk about and list all of the really smart and hard work things that we did to make them so great.

i shudder to think of being personally made over into someone bigger and better.
i might not be perfect but i kind of like me..i get a lot of shit done every day.
like... spending a half hour sitting on my ass watching a bunch of dogs just run and play.

you might not think that is work but it is. learning not to interfere, learning to let creatures be, learning i don't have to add or subtract or stick on my personal stamp in every aspect of someone's actual life...learning that i don't have the answer's for everyone far, that has taken my entire animal rescuing career.

it has taken me a long time to learn too, that i don't have to re-make myself into some kind of warm and fuzzy comfortable model for humans. if i can give the animals here the freedom to be who they are, then i sure as heck can be free to be me..... to do what i do well and not have to carry the burdens of others for who i am not.

we are not just who we say we are, we are not what other people want or think. we are not stuff of some kind of dream or wish or fantasy. we are not characters, ogres, victims or hero's of some great earth moving, soul touching movie...we are only the sum of what we do every day.

and sometimes i do a bit of nothing, like just watching dogs get dirty while they play.



Absolutely all dogs can't heal themselves. Screech is never going to heal himself and poor Oliver was so damaged I never tried to heal him nor asked to him to heal himself. And some dogs like Indy, Chauncey, Paris, Serena, Quinn, Austin (those are the ones that come quickly to mind) only needed time to sort it out for themselves and they usually sort it out in their permanent homes not mine. Dogs like Patrick, Lexi, Boomer, Raleigh and Chase just to name a few needed my sticking my 2 cents worth in. Then there are dogs like Butch, the husky/pitty puppies, Jesse and so many more that we fostered that didn't need to figure anything out or need my interference because all they needed was a good home.

another Doreen

I think I get it - I hope.
Yes, they all have to follow some basic rules which can vary depending on what sort of household they are living in, but after that it's nice to give them some freedom of choice. I kept taking my latest dog out to various pet-friendly stores and parks thinking she would enjoy the change in scenery. But she's more content just to go for rides in my van or to lounge around in the back yard. She's disabled and I finally figured out that going for walks and physical outings wasn't a big part of her previous lives before I got her. And she likes to have a routine, especially around coming home and having her dinner. Once I realized (and accepted) all that, our evenings and weekends have become less busy and stressful for both of us.


i actually agree with you. my point was not that we don't help our dogs change to feel more comfortable and fit safer in their world (i don't let the dogs fight or bug the other animals here EVER.) my point is we don't arbitrarily erase them to make them be who we say they must be or superimpose our ideal of who they are supposed to be.
and we don't use them as some kind of resume to prove to ourselves or others how great we do things.

not all dogs can heal or fix themselves...but many of them do pretty good if given the freedom of opportunity without us sticking our two cents worth in. we pretty much always fail to give them due credit.

and many of us are guilty of "over-parenting" our pets.


I would like to present a different perspective from yours Carol for your readers to consider as I don’t totally agree with your view point. At least I don’t think it is as simple as saying less is more because I have found that sometimes less isn’t good enough depending on the dog in question. When we adopted Patrick way back in 2001, he was definitely one of those “project dogs” that was easily identified as one as he was fearful of all kinds of people and was easily excitable and very reactive. Given these traits mixed in his way of coping, Patrick was a biter where his teeth sank in to the skin and created damage. The 1st three years of Patrick’s life with us, we didn’t ask him to change and I wouldn’t have known how to ask him if I had wanted to at the time. But after 3 years, Patrick was still using those same coping skills to manage his fear, excitability and reactivity so we decided to try some new tactics. We decided we should ask him to change some of his habits. This was done through operant and cognitive conditioning and it was done entirely by me without the aid of a trainer – I learned as I went. This was all done at a pace that worked for both Patrick and us (well mostly me since I did most of the work with Patrick, Sheila just loved him unconditionally). The most important thing we asked Patrick to change about himself was to stay calm when he was outside the home so that he wouldn’t use his teeth to communicate with others. When Raleigh became a permanent member of our household, I didn’t wait and watch this time. I asked Raleigh to change some of his ways of being so that he could eventually be around people and moving objects. Again, it was done at a pace that worked for both Raleigh and me (it took 3 years for him to change some of his habits whereas it took Patrick 6 or more years). Raleigh is what you would consider a “performance dog” as we participate in a lot of activities that I started for him but definitely became about me and the pleasure I get out of doing stuff with him and having people admire my dog. He doesn’t really care what he is doing as long as he is with me. Screech’s progress is way, way, way slower but I even ask him to do things that do not come naturally to him and never will like walking near a dog he does not live with. I ask him to make these alterations in his behaviour to make life easier for me so that I can take him places with me because I love having my dogs go places with me. If I didn’t ask these things from Screech then he would be regulated to my back yard and being walked in the dark of the night or dark of the morning which isn’t fun for me. I know you are going to say that I need to ask for these alterations from the dogs who live with me because they live in the outside world and have to adjust to human rules whereas the dogs at SAINTS are lucky enough to not have to follow these un-dog like social requirements which I totally see and understand (or I wouldn’t be studying what I am studying at school). However, I also believe that relationships are a 2 way thing and it requires compromises for them to be successful. I ask my dogs to change certain things (and even the cats in my home) and I change things about myself so that I can fit into their lives better. I don’t think that my animals are less because of my requests for changes just as I don’t think I am less for the changes I have made in myself in order to live with them. I don’t think I have stamped myself all over my animals and they have lost their personalities. I would like to think my animals feel happy to be in my home and have possibly become more rather than less and would actually prefer my home to a place like SAINTS where nothing would be asked of them. In the end, I think the most important think is to let the animal be in your home long enough (which is often 2 years - especially if they are rescue animals) in order to become comfortable enough to share with you who they really are. Just another way of looking at it.

Bunny Horne

Carol, just an FYI - the pig's ponds were filled from the rain water barrels at the side of the shop - NOT from the tank water you pay for. I poured a bucket of water on each of the big pigs to cool them down. You know that Geico commercial where the little pig is riding in the car screaming WEE WEE WEE - I swear that's the sound that came out of Brad when I poured a bucket of rain water on him. Raven was ULTRA friendly today.

Lori Paul

Best post ever! We need to let animals be animals, especially the ones who've had a rough go...not indulge them in ways that make them more neurotic, but allow them their preferences and pay attention to their non-verbal communications. One of the reasons I love your blog Carol, is I feel I learn about the real life of animals when I read your observations. The fact that you're also a nurse of humans just makes your stories that much more compelling. My monthly donation to SAINTS gives me immense satisfaction...wish I could afford to give more...when my ship comes in or my light goes out :)

cheryl and stef

hi carol, i have lost your email address so thought i would try messages you on the blog. can you tell me a little bit about what you know of liver disease in dogs. Our little JR who is almost 15 has had failing kidneys and the last set of bloodwork shows that his liver levels are thru the roof. He has been on Milk Thistle but it was doing crazy things to his kidneys' Just thought you may have some ideas on what to try re other meds or diet changes...Thanks take care Cheryl


Good essay Carol. Isn't it amazing how much we learn from animals when we take the time to watch?