Southern Utah: Week Four in Dogs

Dog week had finally arrived, and I was so happy to finally get spend a week in Dogtown, especially in this magical place, as there are just so many, each with a unique and special story.  I was fortunate to be assigned to a great area, one call Old Friends, which is an outdated name, since they have dogs of all ages, including a set of nearly 8 month old special needs puppies.  Since I love diversity, it was perfect to have such a mixed bag of dogs to focus on for the week.  And what a week it was!

Old Friends has two buildings, both in the shape of an octagon, which is a design that is used throughout Dogtown, as it gives each dog run a maximum amount of outdoor space, so it’s quite genius, really.  And there are smaller end runs, that are dedicated for dogs with some anxiety issues that don’t do well in wide open spaces, so these smaller spaces are helping them with those issues.  There are about two dozen dogs total in this area of the sanctuary, and all of them unique and special in their own ways.  Most of them live in pairs, with a few dogs living solo, either as a preference/need or because their prior run mate was adopted or moved into another run as is sometimes the case due to a variety of factors.  For the shy dogs, they are paired with confident dogs to help them build their own confidence, which helps create a nice balance.  And I don’t think there is anything quiet as heart-warming as seeing a shy dog play bow and run around with their confident pal when no one is looking, showing their true spirit under their layer of insecurity, usually around people.

The daily care routine in dogs is much like any other area of the sanctuary, with a morning walk for two of the dogs that don’t have full runs, and then it’s on to food preparation and feeding.  In cases where there is more than one dog in a run, they are separated for meal times, just to avoid any conflicts, and they are typically all too happy to oblige, as they know food is coming, and it’s a lively time of day.  This is repeated in the late afternoon, as well, and being the smart creatures that they are, I swear that they can tell time and know the time for meals.  Many of the dogs are fed with either slow feeders or food puzzles of various types, and the caregivers give them different ones each day to keep it interesting.  And then it’s cleaning time, both of the indoor and outdoor areas, with the puppy one taking the most time.  Did I say puppies?  Yah, more on that in a minute.  After breakfast, we get the dogs out for walks with their run mates, or solo, and this is where volunteer help comes in, as the people really enjoy it, as do the dogs.  Some of the dogs have very particular guidelines for their walk, such as whether they prefer to lead or to follow, and if they are particularly shy, which may mean that they even have a preferred side of the person on which to walk.

During my week in dogs, I was able to attend several very interesting sessions, including a couple of hydrotherapy appointments, a meeting with dog caregivers to discuss potential moves of dogs, a behavior assessment session with various dogs, and a shy dog class at another area of Dogtown with one of the shy members in Old Friends, plus several other shy dogs from other dog buildings.  The caregivers also went over a host of information with me, from medications and supplements, to all the various types of leashes and harnesses that are used, to the detailed files on each dog.  I was able to enter a couple of notes on the observed behaviors of a couple of dogs on walks, which is an important part of the record keeping to have updated profiles for each animal.  This helps them track progress, trends, or issues over time, and adjust the care plan for each dog accordingly, along with consulting the various Dogtown managers, behaviorists, and medical staff as needed.  Overall, I was impressed with the care and attention to the needs of each individual dog, and while it’s not the same as a home environment, it’s so much better than some of the circumstances from which many of these animals lived.

On the dog walking trail with sweet boy Google

Now let’s get to the dogs!  As with the other areas during my internship, it’s impossible to pick favorites or to highlight them all, so here are just a few that will be this blog post’s ambassadors for my internship in Dogtown – Old Friends.  First up, is Google, the unofficial greeter at Old Friends.  He’s a super sweet boy, loves his walks, and is an expert path scanner, looking for lizards along the way.  He has an office day once a week, going to another location in Dogtown, as well as outtings on the weekends, which keep this special boy happy.  He had a couple of mellow days during the week, seemingly a bit down, and the staff was quickly on the case, discussing his care plan with all the appropriate folks to ensure his spirit is lifted.  This is just one example of how the caregivers in each area of the sanctuary are so tuned-in to every animal in their care, and always looking for ways to give them the best.  Google is such a sweet boy, I was grateful to be the recipient of his sweet little kisses.

My other special walking buddy was Judge, who is a fairly large dog, with white hairs all over his face like an old man, but this boy is still spry as a puppy, especially when it’s his turn to hit the trail.  He is an expert at scanning for rabbits, and while he will give a little leap toward them in excitement, I found that he also listened well to a “Leave It” command, followed by a happy “Let’s Go!”, bouncing back onto the trail, grinning ear to ear and tongue wagging the whole time.  I’m not sure who enjoyed his walks more, him or me, since he was just so happy and animated, but still manageable.  Sadly, I didn’t get a photo of Judge, and I couldn’t find him profiled on the Best Friends web site, but if I get one in the future, I’ll add it here.  He’s sort of like Scooby Doo to me — bouncy and playful, and since he has a particular fondness for the guys, it was great when we had male volunteers who could spend some extra time with Judge, who ate it up like peanut butter jelly time.

Ok, we need to just take a time out, hit the pause button, and delight in the cutest run mates that ever were, the adorable pair that is Remington and Sunny (photos below).  I could hardly even stand it.  Especially to see them play, since Remington is easily 2-3 times the weight of Sunny, but he was gentle with her, and let her set the tone for their play.  Sunny is a long-time resident of Old Friends, and the super good news is that she’s been adopted and will soon go to her forever home.  This is good news in and of itself, but especially touching when you learn that she’s had four run mates adopted during her time there, so it’s now her turn to get a home, and I’m so happy for her.  She’s come a long way from her super shy days, and is still a bit tenative with new people, using Remington as her barometer.  Since he’s the opposite, and seems to love everybody, and I mean everybody, it was good for her to see that new people can be a good thing.  Remington reminded me a little of Hooch from the movie Turner & Hooch, just way better mannered, except for maybe his love-hate relationship with brooms, which he destroys.  The caregivers are working with him on that, and making great progress.  Now, I might be sad for Remington, since Sunny will leave him soon, but honestly, the second this handsome boy is available for adoption and promoted, he’ll get snagged.  And perhaps if Sunny’s adopter also falls in love with Remington… well, wouldn’t that just be perfect.  He had his behavior assessment during my week there, and he did awesome.  For all the various touch tests that they do with the dogs, this big boy thought it was like a spa day.  Looking forward to following his story in the coming weeks, and not-so-secretly hoping that these two go home together.


Next up in the ridiculously cute department are the resident kids at Old Friends, Kit and Caboodle, the sister and brother Siberian Husky mix puppies with special mobility needs.  They were abandoned on the side of the road at eight weeks old, initially taken in by another rescue group, and then moved to Best Friends for specialized care.  They are now almost eight months old, and their progress chart has been mostly up, but with some setbacks here and there as they grow.  Since they were abandoned, with no information on the mother or father, it’s not known exactly what condition(s) they may have, so the caregivers and medical team do their best to help these two, and it’s quite a team effort.  And since these two peanuts were almost assuredly born this way, they don’t know any different, and are as happy as clams in sand.  Since they are still technically puppies and have movement control issues, their indoor area had a padded floor with lots of extra fluffy layers on top, water dishes secured in a spill-proof holder that is low to the floor for them, and lots of soft plush toys for them to chew on.  Caboodle has better movement control than his sister, and is able to stand up, especially when he hears the voices of his regular visitors, such as their physical therapists and other care workers.  Both of them can really scoot from one side of their area to the other when they want something, whether inside or out, and sometimes that something is to wrestle with the other one, just like any other puppy siblings would do.  The link above to a detailed write-up about them is worth a read, so I’ll just wrap up by saying that it was truly a humbling experience and joy to be part of their little lives for five days, and I’ll be rooting them on for some time to come.


Tomorrow I start my final week of my internship, this one in Horses & Pigs, with some goats thrown in for fun, so look for that in another week or so!

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