Tuesday, August 30, 2016

welcoming trixie to our family.

When I was younger, I used to think it was so strange when I would see my mom wave at people who were complete strangers, and even more odd when she would strike up conversations with them. Who are these people, I remember thinking, and when I would ask, I would feel so baffled when she would shrug and answer, I don't know! with a smile. It didn't bother her to talk to people that she didn't know, because she figured that each person had something new and interesting to offer her, and perhaps would lead to a new opportunity that would otherwise be missed if she hadn't said anything to them.

Like most kids, I swore to myself that I would never do that, would never end up like my mother and talk to people I didn't know. Also like most kids, of course I ended up like her and have been known to strike up conversations in the grocery store line, walking down the street, and anywhere I saw someone interesting that I wanted to learn more about. Along the way I have learned some fascinating tidbits of information, but mostly I have just felt more enriched and confident by putting myself out there and opening up to people I otherwise wouldn't have. Recently, doing this led me on quite a little journey and ended up in one of the best rewards of my life.

A few months ago, when browsing the Internet for local Jack Russell meet-up groups (but sadly not finding any), I discovered the Russell Refuge in Rhinebeck, New York. It is an amazing rescue group for Jacks that is run by a woman and her husband on a horse farm in upstate New York. They pull Jacks from kill shelters around the area and have saved over 900 Jacks in the many years they have been operating. I 'liked' their page on Facebook, amazed by the work they do, and after browsing their page, I saw a woman named Pat who lived in Florida. The first photo on her page was of five - yes, FIVE! - Jack Russells she has, and I saw that she also lives on a farm with horses. I immediately got emoji-heart eyes, and taking the chance that she would think I was a weirdo, I requested to be friends on Facebook with her. (Anyone who has five Jack Russells is an immediate hero of mine.) Surprisingly, she accepted my request. 

The photo that started it all!

A few days later, she posted a picture of a beautiful all-white Jack Russell that she was fostering, waiting for a forever home. Chris and I have been looking for another Jack for a while, but we haven't been able to find one that is a good fit for our home. It's very important when you are looking for a rescue to find one that is a good fit for your lifestyle, personality, and the other dogs in your home - not just one that is cute and nice when it is alone. Each dog has their own unique traits and habits that need to fit in with your family, and it's essential that you look at the dog as it is to see if it will fit in - not looking at how it is and assuming that you can change any behavior that isn't ideal simply because you think it's adorable or it's almost the perfect dog for you except for one trait. That one trait may not be able to be "trained away" and then you'll be left with a difficult situation and an unhappy dog. Anyways, as soon as I saw the picture and her description, I immediately messaged her to ask if they ever adopted out-of-state, expecting her to say no - but she said yes! 

The first picture of Trixie I saw on Pat's page. She is in her backyard.

Trixie in Pat's backyard.

I quickly filled out the application and the agency, Almost Home Rescue of Florida, arranged a home visit through a local rescue. The entire time I was able to talk to Pat, who was fostering Trixie, on a daily basis, learning more about her and her personality and keeping up on her daily antics. Finally, on July 8th, Chris and I left New York with Zoe to drive to Florida to pick up Trixie and make her part of our family!

Trixie getting her morning breakfast of kibble with farm fresh eggs.

Trixie exploring in Pat's barn.

After having a small tumor removed on her belly, she had a cone for a week - but that didn't stop her!

The trip down was fairly uneventful, other than the fact that it was loooong! Luckily, Zoe is great at riding in the car and enjoyed it. We made it to Florida very early Sunday morning, and Sunday evening we were finally able to meet Trixie (and Pat) for the first time. She was an absolute doll, so sweet and lovely. She got along well with Zoe, and Pat had brought along her other Jacks as well, so it was so exciting to be able to meet all of them and be in the company of the Jack Pack! Coincidentally, we ended up staying across from each other on the same floor of the same hotel so that evening we kind of took over the far end of the floor. We used our legs to partition off the floor and let all seven dogs run loose, getting to know each other and talking the night away. It was wonderful.

The very first time we met Trixie!

On Monday, we traveled to the director of the rescue's house, MaryLu, to sign the paperwork so that Trixie finally became ours. What an exciting day that was! It was also a very special day because Chris and I had brought a big bag of toys and treats down to donate to the rescue and MaryLu let us meet each rescue dog she had, play with them, and help them pick out a toy to keep for themselves. It was extremely rewarding and gratifying to meet these dogs who had come from truly horrendous situations but were still so happy just to get one toy for their very own and someone to play with. There was one tiny dog who stuck with me in particular - she was found close to death and even the vet she was brought to said she probably wouldn't make it more than just a few days. But by some miracle, she pulled through and is still around. She is the sweetest, most lovable little dog and was so thankful for the toy she picked out and the extra affection we gave her. Even as we left, her tail was still wagging and she was laying with her toy, licking it. 

It brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart to be able to spend time with them. It would be my absolutely dream to be able to open a Jack Russell refuge/rescue where dogs that need homes can come and live until they find homes, or adult dogs whose owners decide they don't want them anymore (what I hate the most!) can come and live out the rest of their life in a loving, peaceful place. There are so many Jacks in need of homes and love and spending time with the few at MaryLu's that day made my heart ache, knowing there were so many out there in need that I could help. I hope that one day my dream can come true.

Trixie's "Gotcha Day" - the day we finally signed her adoption papers at MaryLu's! Pat's dogs from L-R: Petey, Molly, my Trixie, her Trixie, and Buddy.

After visiting with MaryLu, we decided to go to Fort DeSoto dog beach because it was so scorching outside. Of course it gets hot in New York but the heat in Florida is definitely a different beast. The dog beach is one of the few dog beaches around there and the only leash-free dog beach - how cool! I was really pumped to go to a beach where the dogs can roam free and have the best time, so off we went. More about this in a later post, but let me tell you - it did NOT disappoint!

All the dogs exhausted on Pat's bed! Devlin, her foster dog, at the bottom. From L-R: Buddy, my Trixie, her Trixie, Molly, and Petey.

On Tuesday, we left Florida and drove to Murrell's Inlet, South Carolina to spend a few days there before heading back home. We stayed at a friend's condo and enjoyed going to the beach everyday and just relaxing with the dogs. The ride home, as usual, seemed even longer than the drive down. I'm pretty positive that driving through Pennsylvania can considered a form of torture, especially if you live just over the border. Progress is just so slow-going!

Zoe on the beach at Huntington Beach State Park in Murrell's Inlet.

Trixie had a blast at the beach!

I never thought that just spending two days with Pat and her dogs would imprint them so much on our hearts, but since being home Chris and I have said many times how much we sincerely miss them. They each have their own distinct personality and are the best little dogs. Chris' favorite was Petey, the "grumpy old man" dog, who just follows Pat around without a leash needed because he loves her so much and is very well trained. My favorite was her Trixie (while my Trixie was there, she called her TrixieToo). She is Pat's youngest, and was rescued after she was shot in the face, leaving her blind in one eye. She is a short-legged Jack and the social butterfly of the group who will come up to you, put her front paws on your shoulders first to give you a hug, and then move them to your cheeks while she gives you oodles and oodles of kisses. I love her.

Chris getting hugs and kisses from Trixie in the hallway of the hotel.

We also definitely miss Pat, who quickly became a great friend of ours. She was already a good friend before we even met in person, because of talking every day about Trixie on the days leading up to us coming down. We didn't talk just about Trixie, we talked about anything and everything and shared many things about our life. As soon as we met in person, we just clicked - and that is so rare to find these days. She is just our kind of people, the people who are genuine and straightforward, no faking and pretentious attitudes to get around. She is a wonderful person who has dedicated her life to helping Jack Russells in need and I find it so admirable! I can't say enough good things about Pat and her love for animals of all kinds. I really look up to her and I am very, very grateful to have met her and to be able to count her as one of our friends.

Since having Trixie home, we have been learning a lot more about her. She did have a bit of aggression with food at the beginning, not when she is eating from her bowl but if she knows there is food out on a plate or the counter and one of the other dogs tries to get between her and the food, she would snarl and become aggressive. We think it's because of the conditions she has been living in for the past 9 years (she is 10 years old), as though she is afraid she won't get enough food so she still has to fight for what she can get. We were told she was mostly confined to one room all the time, and she had sores on several feet and part of her body that indicated perhaps she was kept in too small of a crate for long periods of time as well. She was one of 12+ dogs in a hoarding situation and although no physical abuse was able to be confirmed, she is absolutely terrified of the fly swatter, we have discovered. As soon as you reach for it, she sprints out of the room and won't come back unless you go get her. She sometimes winces when we reach from the top to pet her head, like she thinks we are going to hit her, and when we are being extra loud, laughing or joking, she runs upstairs. She was underweight as well, to the point where you could see her spine bones.

Enjoying the sunshine on the deck with Hendrix.

Loving the toys from her first Barkbox! We also frequently call her Dobby for her resemblance to the free elf.
Even just having her for about six weeks now, she is fitting in very well with the other dogs. They are learning their roles with each other within the pack and adjusting accordingly. She is a super sweet dog and her trust in us is building more every day. Each morning she greets me with a face full of kisses and flops back down into bed to try and go back to sleep! She is definitely not a morning person - although I'm not, either! She can't get out of bed without rubbing her face all over the blanket to get her sleepies out and once she goes out to go potty, she comes right back in for our morning cuddles in the chair, where she gets belly rubs and I get more kisses. She snores like an old man, and seeing her tiny stub tail wiggle back and forth is such a reward because I know that it hasn't wagged much in her lifetime. 

Life is always interesting with Jack Russells!

She pulls all of the toys out of the toybox before she decides which one she wants to play with.
We found out at her second vet visit that she had hookworms and after treating her for them, she really blossomed and her personality is shining through more and more. She is becoming stronger every day and we have taken her to several of the local State Parks, along with other local parks and outdoor events on adventures, which she loves. Her food aggression is decreasing and so is her uncomfortableness around the other two dogs. She allows Hendrix to lick her face now and initiates jumping up on the couch right next to them. She is quite independent (in a good way) and doesn't mind going upstairs on her own to take a nap on the bed during the day, but she comes down when she feels like it for more playtime or to flop down on the grass outside. We feel so lucky to have found her and for her to have allowed us into her life because she is certainly a special little soul.

Very tired after her vet visit.

Sleeping with her sister.

It is incredibly rewarding to give a rescue dog a new life, especially an older dog. While it upsets me thinking about the awful life she had before, I know that she will never have to worry about that anymore. Now she has a life that is full of kisses and cuddles, treats and toys, and lots and lots of love. Who would have thought that it all started with me taking a chance on asking a complete stranger to be my friend on Facebook?!

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