Karma Acres Farm

Celebrating the Art of Living Well, Country Style!

Archive for the category “Farm Dogs”

Chuy and the Magic Closet

Because of Chuy, we have taken to calling our little pantry room at the Farm the “Magic Closet”.  We keep just about everything in there, and could not imagine life in our little farmhouse without this space.  Canned goods, canning supplies, baskets for berry-picking and veggie-gathering, large pots and bowls, stacks of clean dog towels, rolls of paper towels, are all somewhat neatly arranged on the floor to ceiling shelving, so nice that it caused a friend to declare that she had “pantry envy”.  We go into this room probably fifty times a day for one thing or another.  For Chuy, however, this room means something even more special – this is the room from which his food magically emerges. 

Chuy is very fond of food, and if you think about it from a canine perspective, the fact that his human can supply food on a consistent, and seemingly effortless, basis must seem like magic.  He is not sure of the details, but somehow his human goes into the pantry closet and comes out with kibble – every day, twice a day – this must be a Magic Closet!   For quite some time now, no matter how many times we go into this long, narrow room, Chuy is right behind us.  It must feel to him like entering Narnia.  He occasionally gets closed in for a few minutes, and when we miss him, we know where to look.  It doesn’t matter if his human goes in and comes right back out, Chuy follows.  When the door to the Magic Closet is closed, he often gazes at it longingly, just waiting until the next time it opens. If left open a crack, he has been known to pry open the door.

Chuy loves the Magic Closet, and would probably stay there all day if we let him.  It doesn’t seem to matter that the magic only happens twice a day.  He knows that sometimes we drop a kibble or two, a treasure to be sought whenever the door to the Magic Closet opens.  Chuy is an eternal optimist.  His enthusiasm reminds us every day, that the magic is always there waiting.



When you live with as many dogs as we do at our farm (a total of nine when all are there), part of the enjoyment is watching not only how they interact with us, but how they interact with each other.  It is absolutely fascinating for us to just sit and watch them.  We talked about that this weekend, and that growing up, we each only had one dog at a time, so we never saw this aspect of living with multiple dogs.  Our dogs are all “rescues” of one sort or another, and range from the very large (two rottweilers) to the very small ( a chiweenie: chihuahua/dachshund mix).  As in all groups, each dog has its place in the scheme of things and its own personality, as well as its own friends and those with whom there are “issues”.  Who really knows how this happens, for humans or for dogs.

You may recall that Jesse is the alpha dog in my five-dog pack, and he is the one to whom the others answer.  He is always on guard and quick to respond to “intruder alert” from Sadie, our most hyper-vigilant girl.  But another equally important roll is played by little Francee, the “omega” dog in our pack.  She is the one who never causes trouble, is quick to try to soothe hurt feelings and disagreements among the others, and the first to make friends with any new-comers.  Every group needs a “love ambassador”, and for us, that is Francee.  Always approachable, she is submissive to any dog that comes her way, quickly wins them over, and gets their love and devotion in return.  Everybody, human and canine, loves Francee.  Her devotion to Chuy when he first came to live with us was so touching.  I knew it would be Francee who would begin to interact with him first, and sure enough, she was the first to make friends with the sad little pug who had lived too long in a cage.  Now, they are best buds, and the last time I took Francee to the vet, he remarked on how squeaky clean her ears were.  I told him that was because Chuy cleans them for her so thoroughly each night, so sweet to watch.

Francee came to us as a foster, and we even placed her in another home for a short time.  She was so miserable by herself without her friends that we all thought it best for her to return to us.  She is just one of those dogs who really seems to need other dogs, and the pack needs her.

The Apricot Pug

The apricot pug needed a foster home.  Would I help?

With four small dogs already, Lee had said “no more”, but I convinced him that fostering would be different.  These dogs would only be with us temporarily before going on to their new homes.   Foster homes are greatly needed and we would be doing a good deed.  After all, it would be temporary.  Did I mention temporary?

Chuy and his favorite nylabone chew.

I met Orlando Pug Rescue in the Walmart parking lot and picked up Chuy.   The apricot pug came with a belly band and two small toys.  The belly band was needed, we were told, because he was not completely housebroken.  His former owner said that he could never be trusted in the house.  She kept him in a crate all day, and wondered why he went in the house as soon as he was let out.  In addition, she told us, he suffered from severe separation anxiety whenever he was left alone, which was quite often apparently.  Poor little dignified dog wearing a belly band.  But his former owner said one other thing.  She said he was the gentlest of souls, and did not have a mean bone in his body.  She was right about only that.

Chuy is a beautiful specimen of pug-ness.  In fact, he is a show-quality pug, special because of his more rare and “desirable” apricot color, who had been used as a stud dog.  Being beautiful, however, had not served him well.  Born in Arizona, sold to a breeder in Colorado, he went to pug rescue at least one time before he moved to Florida and ended up with his last owner in Orlando.    At five years old, he had moved around so many times, been used as a commodity, and was the most depressed dog I had ever encountered.  He watched and waited, no doubt waiting to be moved again.

I read later that stud dogs often fare far worse because they are only handled at breeding time.  At least the females have their puppies.   Chuy probably had no one.  People were temporary.  Not particularly unkind perhaps, but definitely temporary.

For the first several months, Chuy sat on the sidelines and did not play with the other dogs.  He stuck to me like glue, and cried, screamed, whenever I left the room, even if just for a minute.  He reminded me of a foster child who is afraid to bond with the family, knowing they will just be moving again.  I had placed his two toys in the basket where I kept the other dog toys.  It was heartbreaking to watch Chuy go over to the huge basket and carefully select only his own toy from among them, never playing with the other dogs or toys.  Clinging to the only familiar things he had.  He was just waiting to be moved again.

It took many months of care and routine for him to even begin to bond with the other dogs and feel at home.  Francee was first, with her magical, Omega-dog routine, and she won him over.  Little by little, he came out of his shell.  For a long time, he preferred his own toys, but eventually, he chose others from the basket.    He started to play chase with the other dogs.  As for the “housebreaking issue” – doggie door, problem solved.

Chuy has learned that he can count on his family routine.  He has become a different dog.  “Choo Choo Pug” now sleeps every night on mom’s right hand side, licks mom’s nose every morning to wake her up, jumps down in the morning and barks for his kibble, and has the funniest “mad dog” run when he is feeling extra exuberant.  He cleans Francee’s ears every night, and submits to Pearl’s face-cleaning, even though he clearly doesn’t like it.  He still hates riding in the car, and I often wonder if it because he is worried that he is being taken away again.  He remains the gentlest of souls, and yes, he is staying.  We could not bear to move Chuy again, so we made him a permanent part of the Karma Acres family.  Watching him play with the other dogs, playing probably for the first time since he was a pup, we know he is joyful .

Pug Licker

It's all about the Tongue!

From the first time I met the little black pug at the pound, she has been a “licker”.  At our first meeting, in the cold, dismal Jacksonville pound on McDuff Avenue, she jumped up in my lap and began to vigorously lick under my chin.  I thought it endearing, and a sign that she was meant to come home with me.  Beautiful little black-eyed pug.    Little did I know then that licking is just what the little black pug does – to everyone and everything…

My friend Karen suggested the name Pearl, as in Pearl-of-a-girl, and that rarity-of- all-rarieties, the black pearl.    She was just a baby (8 months old) when she came to live with us, our first pug.  What could possibly have happened in her short life that no one wanted her?  As popular as pugs are, it was quite a surprise to find her at the pound.  Perhaps it was because she is a black pug, and black dogs of all types are much less likely to be adopted.  But who could resist a face such as hers?

As young as she was, it is safe to say that she probably never suffered abuse, just perhaps neglect.  I seem to recall something about her former owner saying she was “hyper”.  Perhaps she spent all day in a crate waiting for her owner to return – hell on earth for a young dog and especially the people-loving pug.  I am sure she danced around when let out, only to be labeled “hyper” and banished to the pound.

Now Pearl spends her days with her friends.  When I come home, it’s clear that a vigorous game of chase has taken place from the toys scattered all around the yard – outlet for all that “hyper”.  In and out the doggie door, around and around the yard – Yippee!  She is quite the athlete, as pugs go, still small, but strong, a pocket pug, Baby Pearl.   She’s a happy dog that has never experienced bad things at the hands of a human.  Every night she sleeps next to dad, every morning her “sister”, Francee, waits by the bed until Pearl joins her for breakfast.

She still licks faces and chins, dog and human, as well as other parts of her doggie friends that shall not be discussed.  Her friend, the apricot pug, endures having his face licked, but clearly does not enjoy it.  She loves to lick legs, ankles and feet when you take off your shoes.  Knees are her specialty.  She licks the doggie gate.  Sometimes she just licks the air.  We like to say that she has a certain number of “licks” that she must dispense each day.  Perhaps it is because her tongue is really much too long for her mouth, and hangs out, so licking just comes naturally.  With Pearl, it is, indeed, all about the tongue.  I saw a bumper sticker once that said “Caution: Pug cannot hold its licker”, so perhaps it is a trait common among pugs.  There was that famous screen saver of the licking pug…

I love to look at pictures of old pugs, gone gray around the muzzle, and wonder how Baby Pearl will look in old age.    Youthful, perhaps, gray, no doubt, but forever Baby Pearl.

The Alpha Dog

Every dog pack has its alpha dog, and our five-dog pack is no exception.  Jesse, named after the outlaw Jesse James, was a shelter stray, captured without a collar or tag, running through a neighborhood.  He had clearly escaped from someone’s yard, and when he was caught and taken indoors, promptly hiked his leg on the nice rescuer-lady’s sofa.  The nice rescuer-lady took him to the pound…

I adopted Jesse the day after he was neutered, and thought that perhaps his urge to run would be lessened without his male hormones.  But, no, Jesse is just a runner.  If he escapes from the yard, which he has only done a few times, he is on the lam until he runs out of steam.  At first, we would chase him, and he would stop and look at us and be off again – what a great game!  Now that he is older and knows where home is, he comes home on his own.  Regular meals and a warm bed are great motivators, it seems.

Jesse with his favorite black plastic bags, for marking, in the background, having spotted a squirrel - in the cross-hairs...

Jesse takes his responsibilities as alpha dog very seriously.  He keeps the other dogs in line with a quick snap if they don’t behave according to pack protocol.  He patrols the yard, and when Sadie sounds her “intruder alert” bark, is the first one out the doggie door to check on things.  He takes on dogs much larger than he when they come on “his turf”.  He is every inch a macho boy-dog, a dog’s dog, even if he is a dachshund.

As a standard dachshund, he is a big boy, with an astonishing amount of prey drive.  Many may know that dachshunds were bred to dig into badger holes and drag them out, no easy task I would imagine.  There are still “ground dog” trials, where dachshunds are timed at how quickly they can find a rat in a cage at the end of a series of tunnels.  Their sense of smell is as remarkable as any hound, and no squirrel or other small prey is safe once Jesse has them in the crosshairs.  He and Mike’s dog Maggie make quite the hunting team.  They keep asking for climbing spikes for Christmas to be able to chase their prey into the trees…

But, like all bad outlaws, Jesse has a tender side.  He gets cold and loves to sleep under his blanket, can only eat special dog food “for sensitive systems”, and screams like a girl when you even get near him with the nail scissors.  He has never been lacking in self-esteem, however, never met a black plastic garbage bag that he didn’t mark, and would be fierce to defend any member of his pack from attack.  He is never needy and is noticeably more independent than the other dogs.  It is quite an honor when he climbs in your lap for love.

I read where dogs can recognize a nickname, in addition to their own name, and somewhere along the line, Jesse got the nickname “Bubba” (which, for those not from the South, is Southern slang for “brother”), which he responds to in addition to “Jesse”.   Bubba is getting older and his muzzle is starting to grey, but as long as his little legs can carry him, I expect he will be a runner and “a bad outlaw”.

Sadie Girl

Our friend Mike likes to say that Sadie was “a total train wreck” when we got her some years ago.

Our sweet Sadie Sue. She has come such a long way!

A shelter dog, Sadie had recently had puppies when she was found as a stray, and was extremely run down, weighing half of what she weighs today. You could feel every rib and hipbone in her tiny frame, and her coat was dry, flaky, and totally grey. She had been at the city shelter for nearly three months with one illness after another. It really is a wonder she survived. But worst of all, Sadie must have had considerable trauma, as she was pretty much afraid of everyone and everything. She could not be touched without flinching.

My guess is that, because she is a purebred wirehaired dachshund,

she had been part of a puppy mill or “backyard” breeding operation, and was dumped when she was no longer useful. Our friend Karen suggested the name Sadie partially because she was in such sad shape, and I had never met a sadder dog.

I credit Cesar Millan for giving me the skill I needed to develop Sadie’s confidence and not support her fears. Daily walks and stable pack living have brought her light years from where she was. She is a happy, healthy girl now, and her coat even changed color to black and gold, once she had proper food. It has taken a long time, but Sadie now plays with mom, enjoys a few other human friends, and loves to be petted.

Always suspicious of people at first, however, she still barks at those she does not know well. It is sad, however, that she has never learned to play with other dogs, and probably never will. Because she apparently had to fight for survival, or was never properly socialized, she has never allowed another dog to touch her, even in play. She is better than she used to be, but when all the other dogs play, Sadie never joins in. Attempts to engage her in play are rebuffed, or met with a growl that lets them know to back off.

I do believe she is happy that she is part of a stable pack, and it comforts her to have the other dogs around. I think she would like to play with them, but can never trust them enough not to hurt her, and that she just doesn’t know how to play without escalating it into a fight.

The pain that caused this behavior, I can only imagine. I believe she loves the other dogs in her pack, and is happy to be close, just not too close. She plays the role of “alarm dog”, the first one to bark, and I think they are grateful that she is so vigilant on their behalf.

But boy does she love her mom! Sadie is so attentive to my every move. She knows exactly how I am feeling, and is the first to comfort me when something is wrong. You could not ask for a more loyal friend, and I am so glad that she is happy and in good health. When I look at her now, she is nothing like the shell-of-a-dog she was when she came to live with us. She is my happy, happy Sadie Girl!

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