April 28th 2011 11:20 pm
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May 26th 2010 started off like any other day for my younger brother. He headed to his high school and met up with a few of his NJROTC buddies, just waiting for the dreaded bell to ring. What he didn’t know, that soon his morning was going to be flipped upside down. My brother heard some commotion and saw that some of the kids at his high school were throwing rocks at this tiny little black and tan dog that wandered on to campus. Being over 6 feet with a football player’s build, my brother is not a small guy. He had the kids stop throwing the rocks and grabbed the scared little black and tan dog and took her to his NJROTC classroom. His friends cooed over the little black and tan dog that was visibly scared and was shaking. Everyone asked my brother what he was going to do with the dog, since after all, school was yet to start and no teacher in their right mind would allow a dog into their classroom, let alone one that was a stray. However, my brother also is one without common sense sometimes but with a huge heart, decided he was going to sneak the little black and tan dog into his oceanography class. The plan surprisingly worked……for the first 20 minutes of the class that is. His teacher soon found out and let the dog stay in the room until she started barking at the other students disturbing class. The teacher however also understood my brother’s heart was in the right place and excused him from class to let him work on his assignments outside with the little black and tan dog if my brother agreed that he would call home or figure out some other arrangement for the dog soon. Being the smart person my brother is, he called home saying he needed us to pick something up for him and to meet him in the back parking lot of the school. Thinking it was some school assignment, we did. As soon as we got to the school, my brother came out to the car with a big smile on his face while opening the back door of the small car placing the little black and tan dog inside. We were shocked but what could we do so we took the dog home.
Once at home, we had to decide what we were going to do with this little black and tan dog. Because we had another dog and didn’t want to risk his health, we decided to keep the little black and tan dog inside our insulated garage and provided her with some water. Our garage at the time was more of a hang out instead of a place to store tools and vehicles so the little black and tan dog had plenty of room to walk around and keep safe. I cleaned our Labrador’s extra large kennel and set it up in a small corner of the garage. We threw many blankets inside the kennel and used old pillows to make a bed for the little black and tan dog until we were able to go out and buy her more appropriate bedding. We spread out some of our Labrador’s old toys in the garage to help keep her entertained during the time we were at school, work, etc. Before we got attached to the little black and tan dog, we put up ads on craigslist, penny saver, etc. saying we found a dog. We looked through every lost dog ad from months ago to most recent to see if this little black and tan dog had a home. The little black and tan dog was already leash trained and didn’t bark much. She wasn’t housebroken but got along fabulous with my 10 and 12 year old sisters. She wasn’t the prettiest dog to look at but once you gained her trust she couldn’t wait to see you and would jump into your lap and do her best to show how much she loved you. It was visible that she knew we rescued her. Despite getting many hits on our ads from people who lost their dogs, none of the descriptions came even close to match the little black and tan dog. We knew she couldn’t go on much longer being nameless, so we took it upon us to give her a temporary name until we find her owners or someone adopted her. The little black and tan dog went through many names during this process. We started off calling her Sadie, but for some reason the little black and tan dog never fit the name of Sadie. So for a couple days we called her Sophie. Even though we liked the name, it still didn’t fit her. One night, my friend and I were talking about the little black and tan dog and a fitting name for her. We wanted a name that would resemble the struggles that she went through but also a name that represented her very strong, fighter like, tenacious attitude. While discussing this, my friend stopped and said, “Tough Cookie”. I was confused by her statement but she had explained that she thinks the little black and tan dog should be named Tough Cookie, T.C. for short. We all agreed that it was a great name. From that point on, the little black and tan dog was simply known as T.C.
A week and a half went by and T.C.’s owners were still not found. I decided it was finally time to go fill out a found report with our local animal shelter. The last time I was at our local shelter, I was very little. Getting out of the car and holding T.C. as close to my chest as possible, a feeling of nervousness came upon me. While filling out the found report, the shelter staff examined T.C. and checked for a microchip. We were told that T.C. was probably about two years old but didn’t have a microchip. The shelter informed us that we could leave her with them and after a certain holding period was over, they would put her up for adoption. We had heard horror stories before about the shelter and decided that while T.C. was a very good little dog, the chances of her being adopted would be slim and we would feel horrible if she was put to sleep. We told the shelter that we would foster her. The shelter informed us that because dogs are considered private property, T.C. could not visit a vet for 30 days and therefore we were not allowed to vaccinate or spay her. At the end of 30 days, T.C. would then be legally ours.
We knew that we couldn’t keep going on without T.C. and Belgian, our Labrador, meeting so my brother held T.C. and I held Belgian. Belgian liked T.C. from the start however T.C. had to warm up to him. After all T.C. was a very small dog meeting this huge monster of a dog for the first time, if you were in her paws you may have been as scared too. Because T.C. had an unknown health history and her and Belgian were still getting to know each other, we decided it was best to still have T.C. in the garage when she couldn’t be supervised. Because we realized her stay was going to be longer than anticipated, we decided to go on a shopping spree for her at Petco. She got a brand new bed, a shirt, a jacket, a new collar and leash, and most importantly, her very own toys. It was official. We were getting attached to T.C. and so was Belgian. Because we knew 30 days was still a long time and anything could happen, we continued to look out for her owners. At the same time we also looked for another home for her. We had no intentions at all to keep her but we did want to try our hand at fostering and getting to help a kind soul that would probably not make it in a shelter system.
Life with T.C. from the beginning has never been easy. T.C. came to us with visible signs of abuse on her body. One of her ribs were broken but because it had been healed for a long time and she had no pain that went along with it, we decided that it was just best to let it be. Outside from my brother, T.C. was very afraid of men. In fact, when men came over or the men in our household would go into the garage, she would hide under the couch in the garage or go behind the shelf and hide. T.C. also had issues with younger kids. She just couldn’t trust them. If one was to kick their foot around her, she would go into a fit of barking. T.C. did not like Belgian when she first met him and would snap at him, every time he would go near her. We decided to introduce them slow. Because our backyard is half wooden fence and half wrought iron, T.C. originally wasn’t allowed to go back there by herself because she would go through the fence and into the forest that we live next to. The amazing thing was that she would always come back and just sit by the front door waiting for us to let her inside. One night while out to go to the bathroom, she caught sight of a rabbit that I had not seen. The terrier inside her came out and she chased the rabbit into the darkness before I could grab her. I raced inside to grab a flashlight and brought Belgian out with me hoping he could pick up a scent from her or maybe be able to distract her enough to come back. 20 minutes went by and nothing. I started whistling, and shouting her name but I couldn’t even get a whimper from her. After an hour, I began to lose hope that I would be able to find her that night but I still carried on. It was 9:30 p.m. and we live in a very high predator territory. I grabbed some smelly Tuna and leftover chicken and threw it near the house hoping it may attract her. Belgian and I decided we would go walk out in the front yard for the 5th time and see if we could see anything that may indicate that T.C. was out there. We couldn’t find anything but picked up Belgian’s Wubba Bear that I accidently left out on the yard. It was now 10:00 p.m. I took the Wubba back into the backyard and began to squeak it. Belgian ran to the corner of our side yard and started to whimper. Then, he ran along the fence standing very alert with his tail wagging. I squeaked the toy again. Belgian stopped and focused into our neighbor’s backyard. Another dog started whimpering, and it wasn’t Belgian. I flashed the light down and there she was. T.C. The brat was playing tag with the neighbor’s two chow chows. When she saw me and heard the squeaker, she decided it was time to come home which was great but the question was how. The Chow Chows used to get out so the neighbors had re designed their yard to prevent the dogs from getting out. To this day, I still don’t know how she got into their yard. After about an hour and a half of struggling, T.C. decided to jump over a 3 foot wall to get back home. I was more relieved than angry at her and gave her a nice treat before putting her into her kennel to go to bed. Another thing T.C. hasn’t failed to do is destroy the house. My brother was in charge of watching her for the weekend and decided to not put her in the kennel when he left. We came home to $200 worth of blinds chewed up and broken, $150 of door panels scratched, $50 of dry wall that was chewed through, and pooed that had been walked and dragged through the house. Obviously we were not happy but soon T.C. was forgiven.
Even though we were under the 30 day rule still, we had begun to accept the fact that T.C. was probably abandoned. It was obvious that someone had taken care of her before us but at the same time it was obvious that she was abused in the past. A friend and I had been talking one day when she told me that she was going down 6th street for lunch about a week or two before we rescued T.C. and there was a dog that was very similar to T.C. running and dodging the cars along with a bigger dog. As T.C. progressed through her training and started to understand rules in the house, we noticed that she just wouldn’t stop getting bigger. We realized that she was pregnant yet because we were still under the 30 day rule, we couldn’t do anything about it or get her any medical care. So I began to research pregnancy in dogs and how to care for a litter of puppies. I talked to friends and family who also have had experience with litters and started to get everything ready for T.C. and her pups. Belgian, being your typical lab, always has a wading pool hanging around waiting for a hot day. Because we didn’t have raising a litter in our budget and there was no way T.C. became pregnant with us (We didn’t have her long enough for her to get pregnant) and not being able to have any help from dog rescues, we had to find the cheapest but efficient way of providing T.C. a place to raise her pups. We took the wading pool and lined it with newspapers and blankets for T.C. We threw treats inside the pool so she would be comfortable inside it and gave her a couple Kongs and other dog toys. The pool was right beside the couch and TV where I ended up sleeping on for weeks until the puppy came. 2 weeks before the puppies arrived, I had created an emergency kit and puppy supplies that sat next to the pool and ready to go for when the puppies arrived. Because T.C. was already pregnant before she came to us (even though we didn’t know it), we had no idea when she would pop so we just took advantage of any time we had to get prepared.
July 16th, 2010, early in the morning, 10 little puppies were born. That is right, 10. She had 8 little boys and 2 little girls. The puppies were born exactly a week after the 30 day rule was up. The puppies were all different from another. Some were born black and tan but others were born brown and tan. Some were born with tails and others were born without tails. Some were big and some were little. The one thing they all were though was healthy. T.C. had no complications and all 10 puppies had survived. Some of the puppies already had homes by the time they were born thanks to friends and family who had stepped in to help us either find home for the puppies or just adopt them themselves. For the puppies that were not adopted yet, we created a facebook profile where we set up an album for each pup that tracked the puppies’ growth in photos. Not only did it help us find homes for some of the puppies, but it also allowed the new owners to watch their puppies grow until they were able to take them home at 8 weeks. Since we couldn’t supervise them 24/7, I set up a webcam and taught my little sisters how to use it so we could monitor the pups as well as our friends, family and owners could watch the pups interact with each other and T.C. I worked hard to socialize the pups with as many things as I could. They grew up knowing Belgian and even got to hang out with our neighbor’s English Bull Terrier. They were socialized with many kids from all ages. They learned how to take baths and Belgian taught some of them to swim. They loved it when they were able to go outside and chase each other through the grass and jump into the flower beds. By the time they all left, the pups already understood that they were already potty pad trained. Some of the pups we fostered until they were 4 months old because either they were returned, didn’t have homes yet or we agreed to hold on to longer. T.C. was a great mom to the pups and we will never forget the kindness and patience of our neighbors for either helping us out with taking care of the pups, taking T.C. for a walk so we could clean up the pups, letting us borrow their dogs or kids to help socialize the puppies, but most importantly the patience of listening to puppies make all the usual puppy noises that they make. When the day came for most of the puppies to get picked up, it was a bittersweet day. We fed them all together one last time and T.C. played with each of them. Each owner let us and T.C. give one last goodbye to the pups. Because we didn’t want the puppies to end up like T.C., I made up packets with all sort of information and pictures of the puppies. It was sad to see the pups that I raised from day 1 leave, but at the same time was rewarding because I knew I did something good and I knew these puppies would bring a lot of joy too many lives. Today, I still talk to the owners and receive updates and pictures of the puppies. Because of the puppies, I have made new friends and have learned a lot about giving back.
While T.C. was at first depressed and somewhat lost that her puppies were gone, in a way it was also a relief. The week after the last puppy left, T.C. was spayed, vaccinated and licensed. She was officially our dog. We decided it was a new start so we got her a new collar to put her new license and ID tag on. In a month, we will officially have had T.C. for a year and as you can tell, what a year it was. T.C.’s training is in full swing and for a stubborn dog she is quite smart. While she acts bossy at first when meeting new dogs, she now loves to play with other dogs and plays fetch every night with Belgian and the neighbor dogs. She also sees one of her puppies almost monthly and what a duo those two are when they play. T.C. no longer goes through the fence and will refuse to go through the fence even after the rabbits. A part of T.C.’s new start was getting her a size appropriate kennel which she loves to be in. She is an indoor dog that does have limited access as she is still working on potty training which is coming along really well now. While she walks wonderfully on the leash, she does have leash reactivity issues when strange dogs are around. This has been challenge to work with but we have been making good progress. A huge part of her success was the fact that she loves men now and tolerates kids. She actually runs to our neighbor now and jumps into his lap with her front paws on his chest and licks his face. She loves him. She also has done a great job of just walking away from kids that she finds annoying instead of fighting back. Some kids she will run and follow waiting for a pet on the back. Most of the kids we come across are very good about approaching T.C. on her side instead of her face when they pet her.
T.C. is a great little dog and I now couldn't imagine life without her. While she still has some reactivity issues that we need to work on and is my little project dog, I am very glad she is in my life. While I will always support reputable breeders, T.C. has opened my eyes to rescue work. The emotions, finances, time and work that goes into rescue work is definitely not easy or cheap. I am most certain T.C. would have been put down if she was in the shelter system. She has so many issues that most people would not be willing to work on with her. She is my first rescue dog, but is certainly not my last. While T.C. isn’t in a home where she can have a $3,000 doghouse or a wardrobe full of doggy sweaters and a closet full of toys, she is in a home that provides a lot of love and patience. I think if you asked her she would tell you that she was living the grand life now. She used to be known as the little black and tan dog but now when people look back at her life before us, they all say that she must have been one “Tough Cookie.”
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