May 29, 2009


Now that nights are getting warmer, I am discovering the error in rescuing tadpoles. Last summer a large puddle developed behind my office, probably 4' across and 15' long, almost a pond. I went to look at it one day and discovered it contained hundreds of tiny little tadpoles. The problem for a tadpole living in a puddle is that it takes a specific amount of time to morph into a toad and unless the rains come regularly, the puddle could dry up before they get land legs.

Before long the puddle began to shrink and the tadpoles began crowding together. Soon the surface of the water was in constant motion because there were so many wigglers per square inch. This quickly became a birdy buffet as the starlings could stand on the muddy edge of the puddle and eat their fill without even getting wet. I could take no more, operation tadpole rescue began. With no thought to my interference with nature's balance, I began scooping tadpoles up and putting them in a bucket.

With a hundred or so, one inch long tadpoles in my bucket, I would journey off to some larger body of water and release the little guys. I took some to a run-off pond not far from work, another bunch traveled the 80 miles home with me and were dropped off at the lake outside of town. A few went into fish bowls in the office where a bunch of grown women, some of us grandmothers, rediscovered the fascination of watching tadpoles become something completely different. When they were ready to leave the water we released our little toads outside to repopulate the area around the office.

The error part came in when I decided to drop a dozen or so of them in my little front yard pond. This is just a little 35 gallon, free standing pond with a fall which normally shelters my 4 large Comet goldfish. My largest fish is close to 6 inches long and I suspect
that some of the tadpoles became fish food, unless they changed and hopped out quicker than I expected.
My little Rat Terrier, Scooter was nearly driven mad by the presence of quick, dark shapes at the bottom of the pond. She surely thought they were water mice and her very favorite thing to do it hunt for mice. She would perch on the edge of the pond, watching the swim team. Eventually, she would jump in but of course, since she had no intention of getting wet, she would jump right back out and go to perching again.

In good time the last of the tadpoles turning into a legged amphibian and jumped out of the pond. Scooter gave up looking in the pond and things returned to normal, 4 fish in the pond, no dogs. I thought little more of toads and tadpoles, thinking that was the end of the tadpole saga. Oh, how naive' I was!
A couple weeks ago, after dark, Sassy Sister, a Rat Terrier, of course, was out in the side yard before bedtime. She started barking but instead of stopping after a few barks she barked more and took on a note of hysteria. I went to see what had her so worked up and found her making faces, flapping her tongue and if she could have spit, she would have. All the while she kept running back at little 2 inch toad that had crawled out from under the sidewalk around the house, trying to grab him by a leg. Clearly, she had already tried the full body bite and toads apparently don't taste very good. The toad didn't look good, although there was no blood, he was limp so I tossed him over the fence. He was gone the next day so he must have just been stunned, unless toads play possum.
After the fourth time the dogs found a little toad in the yard, it finally occurred to me, these are probably the former tadpoles that I brought home last year. So far, only that first toad was mouthed, Sassy seemed to learn very quickly that toads are something you don't want to put in your mouth. She does however bark, jump around and paw at the BIG, SCARY things but in each case the toad was fine and I have taken each of them to the garden, outside the fence. I'm hoping they do not insist on returning to the area inside the fence, even though they have a pretty good defense system going.

May 23, 2009


I did not set out with the intention of being an animal rescuer, I just kind of stumbled into it. On April Fool’s day, 1998, a friend’s Rat Terrier had puppies and since I had been planning to get a dog to replace my Scottie, she offered one of the puppies to me. It wasn’t long after bringing this little whirlwind into my home that I realized what a wonderful breed the Rat Terrier is. By the time Scooter was a year old, I was looking to add a second Ratty to my family. My friend offered me a puppy from her upcoming litter, one that would be related to Scooter. I was excited about this pending addition to the family, dreaming of the puppy breath, tiny paws, little licks, big puddles, chewed shoes and wakeful nights. The ten weeks of waiting before my puppy would be available seemed like an eternity.

I’ve always been a dog lover and with my introduction to the Internet in the mid 90's, I found myself often cruising shelter and rescue web sites, looking at dogs that were rescued and dogs in need of rescue. As I wandered through these sites one night, I found the cutest pair of Rat Terriers in a shelter right in my own state. They had been in the shelter for several weeks, having come in together but remained unadopted due to the preference to place them together. Many people wanted one cute, active little dog but it seems no one was interested in taking on two at a time. For a week I returned to the site, looking at the two little Rat girls, hoping someone would have adopted them but they were always there, the smaller with her tongue lolled out, ears back, bouncing toward the photographer. They were in a low-kill shelter and not at immediate risk, but I began to worry about them and felt a need to help.

I searched for Rat Terrier rescue groups on the Internet and sent out pleas for one of them to help get the girls out of the shelter. I told them I would adopt one dog but since these were not being placed separately and I didn’t think I could handle two, they needed help. An answer came quickly from Caroline with Ratbone Rescues. Unfortunately, she said she was unable to assist with them because there were no foster homes available in Kansas and no one to pull them from the shelter. She suggested I try taking both and if I found it overwhelming, I could contact her again and she would work on arranging transportation for them to a foster home.

It had become obvious to me in this process that the adoption of a dog from a shelter was what I needed to do. My friend’s puppies were sure to be cute and lovable but she would not struggle to find them homes, on the other hand, a shelter dog could die without me. With that small bit of urging from Caroline, I decided to contact the shelter and tell them I would take both the Ratties. With the decision made I got so excited about taking the girls that I sent floor plans, property diagrams, showing all my fenced area and history on my other pets, fearing all the time they might decide not to let me have them. After submitting everything, it seemed an eternity with no word on my application.

Finally, when I could no longer stand the wait, I called to see if anyone could tell me where things stood. I reached Margaret, a very kind woman, who I had spoken with several times. She had planned to call me that very day and was happy to tell me I had been approved to adopt Jordy and Ivy. I was elated, anxious to bring the girls home. We agreed I would travel across the state on the upcoming weekend to pick them up. When work ended Friday, Scooter and I packed up and headed down I-70, on the way to collect our new family members. Scooter always loves a trip and after the initial excitement of being on the road, settled down to nap the miles away. I had planned to spend the weekend with a friend in eastern Kansas, during which time I would go to the shelter to meet the dogs then return the next day to pick them up. We arrived late, settled down after some social time and when I finally rose the next morning there was shopping time, to pick up new leashes and collars, before time for the shelter to open.

On that pleasant, bright day in late September, Scooter and I arrived at the shelter to get acquainted. There was a lot of activity at the shelter, many volunteers were in and out with dogs they had come to exercise and socialize. Two children and their father petted a tail-wagging shepherd mix while their mother signed the final adoption papers. When they finished and left with their new pet, it was my turn. Margaret was there to help me and the first thing she did was to tell me that after reassessing the two dogs this week, the shelter behaviorist had decided it might actually prove beneficial to separate them. They described both dogs as being quite submissive but despite this, Ivy was very domineering over Jordy. Although the two were clearly bonded they thought Jordy might come into her own is she was away from Ivy. Although they would still allow me to take both, Margaret assured me they would have no problem placing the remaining terrier as there had been several people interested in taking one.

When I made my choice to take only one, all that was left to decide was which one would go home with Scooter and I. The two little girls were brought out to an exercise pen, about 12 feet square, where they were let down to run. They both set off running the perimeter of the pen, barking furiously at the other dogs out in the play yard. When I knelt and chirped to them, the smaller of the two would come up to me but only for a minute then she would run off again. Occasionally Ivy, the larger of the two would display her alpha status, snarling at Jordy and standing very tall to show she was the boss. Jordy slowed only slightly under these attacks but had clearly learned not to resist. The moment the assault ended, Jordy would be off running again.

I decided to introduce Scooter to the pair to see how they hit it off. Poor Scooter considered this a very bad idea. As soon as she hit the ground in the exercise pen, she was mobbed by the two little Ratties. Although she equaled them in size, Scooter clearly felt over matched. She was frantic in her effort to climb up my leg so these "big, fearsome beasts" could not get her. I picked her up but this was not enough, she proceeded to work at climbing onto my shoulder to get further away from the pack. I concluded that Scooter was not going to be of any help with the decision so I returned her to the car.

I returned to the pen and again, Jordy was the one who would respond, albeit briefly, to my efforts to make a connection with them so I decided this was the one I would adopt. I completed the paperwork, paid the fee and deposit then left the shelter with my new Rat girl. She rode home in a crate so she and Scooter were able to sniff through the door without overwhelming each other. When we arrived at home, Jordy was too busy running from room to room, sniffing every nook and cranny, to pay attention to Scooter. This was Scootie’s opportunity to get close without being noticed so she followed as right behind this newcomer, room after room, sneaking close enough for a sniff whenever Jordy seemed preoccupied. When finally all the sniffing was done, the two little dogs, worn out from the day’s excitement, collapsed on opposite ends of the couch, eying each other before falling asleep.

In the following days and weeks, Jordy, who was renamed Trixie by my father, settled in, got acquainted with Scooter and the two of them became great play pals. This was no doubt a great relief to Oscar, the ten year old Doxie who had grown tired of Scooter’s attempts to coax him into romps. Trixie proved to be far from submissive. She quickly assumed the role of sassy, bossy alpha dog, sometimes just a plain bully. She didn’t take readily to crate training, obviously unhappy about containment. When locked in, she showed what remarkable lungs she had, bursting forth with prolonged shrieks which sounded much like air pushing through the stretched neck of a balloon but in time she gave up this howling, learned good doggy behavior and became a true part of the family.

She is now my little "foo foo princess" with the ballerina legs and the floozie sashay. As Trixie settled into the household, I kept thinking about the Rat Terriers out there with no home to call their own, no owner to appreciate their very special qualities. Shortly after bringing Trixie home, I contacted Caroline at Ratbone Rescues again and asked what was involved in being a rescue volunteer. She quickly sent me a response, explaining the process of applying to be a foster home for Ratbone and invited me to submit an application. I’m pleased to say that my application was approved and I was welcomed into the world of pet rescue, an outcome which has been very rewarding for me and has given a number of Rat Terriers another chance at life.

DOGGY DOOR BLUES or Life Among Terriers

Upon installing a doggy door in my house I quickly decided this invention ranked right up there among mankind’s greatest ideas. No longer was I slave to the whims of a pack of Rat Terriers who never wanted to go outside in a group but rather, would demand to be let out and let in one at a time. It also simplified housebreaking of new fosters who were much quicker at figuring out the dog door than learning how to signal to be let out. By the time I’d spent a year with the doggy door in place I could not imagine how we lived without one, that is until today.

A little over a week ago I began to notice the "dog room" had a more unpleasant odor than usual. The dog room is the large room at the back of my house which opens onto the deck and into the fenced yard. This is where my computer is located, next to a row of dog crates. Currently I am in the process of pulling up the carpet and putting down vinyl tiles to make a more dog friendly environment. This is where the dogs stay when I am working, so they have outside access but can be in the house if they want. Needless to say, with anywhere from six to twelve dogs at a time living with me over the past three years, not all with good house manners, the room is bound to have some odor, but this was worse than normal.

I checked around the room but found no offending deposits. I checked crates but no one had soiled their bed, I even got down and looked under the TV cart after noticing a couple dogs looking under there but I found nothing to explain the increased odor. Within a couple days I started taking the blankets out of all the crates to wash as the smell was getting worse. There seemed to be traces of the offensive scent on many items but none seemed to be strong enough to account for what was beginning to be just plain stinky. I searched the room again, several times, still thinking one of my little darlings had left me a nice deposit in some corner but I came up empty.

Yesterday, as I crawled around the floor laying tiles near the dog’s feeding station, I said to myself "It smells like something died in here". All the dogs had checked in for supper and the birds just moved outside earlier in the day so it wasn’t a family member. Once more I looked around the room, to no avail. Having worn myself out laying tiles I gave up for the day and went to bed. Waking up this morning, I realized the distinct stench had now found it’s way out of the dog room and into my adjoining bedroom. That was the last straw, the room was going to have to be cleared and the source of the smell dealt with. My greatest suspicion lay with the feeding station which is actually an old three drawer chest, just the right height to prepare dog meals and providing a storage place for supplies. I figured a mouse had made it’s way in, looking for something in the "treat" drawer and had died there. I would have to take out all the drawers, empty them and possibly turn over the chest.

Behind the chest were two crates, one empty, the other April’s. This pup sometimes has a problem with wetting in her crate and this morning the stink seemed more intense around her crate so I took it out first and, removed the blanket, which was dry and moved the crate to the bathtub to be scrubbed out. I then went back for the empty crate, prepared to work my way through the room. I didn’t have far to go. Picking up the empty crate which had been stored in a corner, my first thought was "how did the cat toy get back there?". Then I realized it was not the fuzzy ferret cat toy but a young opossum that had squeezed into the space between the crate and the wall to expire. The rodent like critter was only about six inches long with probably that much tail and if it weren’t for the smell I would have thought it was playing dead.

I doubt it crawled up onto the deck and in through the dog door itself so I have to suspect that one of the Rat "terrors" found it in the yard, inflicted a mortal wound and brought it into the house where it obviously lived just long enough to crawl off to hide from it’s tormentors. A cruel lesson was learned today. When you disturb a long dead possum that was squeezed down tight on the carpet when it died, what was a rather annoying, lingering bad smell immediately becomes a nose clogging, eye watering, stomach turning stench. It is now apparent that man’s greatest pet invention was the poop-scooper as this was the only feasible method of removing the remains from the room. Fortunately, it is nice weather now as the day was spent with the doors and windows open, many candles burning and fans running.

Even the dogs spent much of the day outside, lying in the sun and fresh air. Tonight everyone is sleeping with blankets over their crates as the door will be open all night. Simple Solution is good but it is no match for this situation. Fortunately, the carpet is coming out, sadly it will probably be several days before I can remove that portion as I have to finish tiling the center part of the room first so I can move all the crates off the carpeted part of the floor. I now fully understand the attitude of my country living, terrier owning friend, on the subject of dog doors.