Monday, November 30, 2009

ZUMA (a.k.a. Pearl)

We adopted Pearl, now Zuma, in February of 2009. She was one of the last 50 or so dogs rescued from Gabbs in January of 2008. Hopalong Animal Rescue found two wonderful foster families to share in her rehabilitation for a year and get her ready for her forever home.

Zuma is deaf, visually impaired, has a heart murmur and PDA, weak hips and we think she's a little brain damaged. I'd seen her on Hopalong's website for months and she tugged at my heartstrings. Her ailments sound a little daunting, but, she's a trooper and is just the happiest dog we've ever known.

Zuma with her new brother Enzo

She's skiddish as can be, but it doesn't hold her back. We've spent hours and hours working with her mostly with touch and massage, and just recently progressed to being able to hug her without her growling. Our other dog, Enzo, has taken easily to being her big brother and guide, although even he can't get her to relax in certain environments.

We have the toughest time when we take her to Pt. Isabel, the biggest dog park around, and we think it might remind her of the ranch at Gabbs. She stubbornly plants herself on the sidewalk and will not budge. Sometimes, a dog will come by that can get her to move, and other times, I give up after about 40 minutes, putting her back in the car while Enzo swims. She loves the car, and appears to find comfort in the closed-in space.

I'm attaching a couple of pics. The pic of their paws touching was taken recently. They aren't the snuggly together type and I just happened to have my phone right there to capture this moment...soon to be our Christmas card.


I'm happy to have discovered this blog/web site. These are very special dogs, and I am interested in learning more about how to further rehabilitate our little girl.

Zuma, you look GREAT! Congrats on the new home.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Gabbs was named for the place he came from. This boy has not had an easy life. At the ranch, Gabbs lived in a run with several dominant dogs. On the day when a representative from the Nevada Humane Society was visiting the ranch, Gabbs was attacked by his run mates and severely injured. He was taken back to the Nevada Humane Society where his wounds were treated and he was taken into the care of David, an animal care manager at the facility. Gabbs was leash trained, trained to run off lead, was house trained, car trained.... but Gabbs was with left more than physical scars. He is shy, shy, shy.

Gabbs at the Ranch

With David, Gabbs went on long hikes at Tahoe and in the winter went cross country skiing. But Gabbs became a frequent guest at Safe Haven after David left NHS. In May of this year, David was no longer able to care for Gabbs, so Gabbs came to my house and met “the gang”. So yes, he is good with other dogs. Gabbs is safe and happy here, but what he really needs is a forever home with a person who will appreciate the fact that his tail wags when he sees them. Sometimes, he even smiles.

Gabbs relaxing

Gabbs with his foster brother Twist

Gabbs is young, about three years old, and still looking for his person. Please contact B.A.R.K. if you are interested in giving Gabbs a 'furever' home.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

ROSIE Update

Update from Rosie's Auntie Robin:

Just a couple of weeks ago, we went hiking with Rosie and her Mom (Tabbie). Rosie is doing well, she is buff and healthy looking. She loves to hike and is very reliable off leash. She has a doggie friend "Poli" who stays with her sometimes. She is always happier when another dog is around, like lots of the Gabbs dogs.

She has apparently mostly conquered her fear of the resident kitties and now shares the bed with them, and of course, her mom.

She is still sweet and loving and very happy about her new life. I hope Tabbie can find time to give a fuller update, but that's the news I have for now.


Sunday, October 25, 2009


Remember Prancer?

Prancer waited over a year and a half, but in August 2009, he finally met Gloria, his new mom. Prancer now has the life he never knew existed when he was living in the cold and mud at Gabbs. He now sleeps on blankets by Gloria’s bed instead of in a damp hay house. In the morning, he climbs in the truck and goes with her to get coffee. He has a small yard where he can go out and nap in the sun. He goes for several walks a day and gets to go running off lead in the hills with his new friend Pumpkin. Prancer is devoted to Gloria and she to him.

Of course there are the Gabbs dog quirks. The oft repeated “fear of men”. Not men in general, just the ones who happen to live in the same household. Gloria takes care of an elderly gentleman, Vern. Bags of chicken jerky treats couldn’t convince Prancer that Vern was to be trusted. Prancer still barks at him and won’t willingly stay in the room if Vern is there. Sometimes Prancer decides he would like to sit in the truck “for a few more hours, please.” Prancer carries on his own little conversation in grunts, whines and barks. Gloria listens very patiently to all he has to say.

Prancer saying hello to Kris from Safe Haven

On October 24th, Gloria brought Prancer to Bark in the Park to visit some of his old friends. Prancer was happy to see the old gang from Safe Haven, but he was always turning to look to make sure new mom Gloria was nearby.

Prancer with his new mom Gloria, and buddy Pumpkin.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Gabbs Emergency

My name is Debra Ross. I Live in Gardnerville, Nevada. In late 2007 several animal organizations went to a place called Gabbs, Nevada where a lady had hoarded 150 dogs…..she passed away and left behind the 150 dogs. I volunteer for United Animal Nations-EARS. They took about 50 of the dogs and sheltered them in Reno, Nevada while they placed these 50 dogs in foster homes etc. One dog-Socks(see her pic below)-seemed real feral and aggressive. They had thoughts of putting her down. When the temporary shelter was about to close, Socks was the only one leftL I decided to take on the challenge, re-hab her and find her a home…..I prepared my house setting up her own private bedroom in the house with a dog door to a VERY secure 12 x 12 kennel with a top. She came to my home 2/21/2008. As of this letter she has been here 20 months. In the beginning she was very scared, would not come inside, afraid of the building, the TV, ceiling fan etc…I tried leash training-way to soon and paid with several good bites…soon she showed interest in my male Queensland and my female lab/huskie. After several months, I “Housed” her with them. They had a bigger “Patio yard” and there own bedroom-no more small closed in kennelJ Since my lab/huskie was old and had cancer, Socks and my Queensland fell in love…..he taught her to come inside, with his help we have crate trained her and she will go in her crate at request. She finally would eat out of a bowl, was not afraid of the TV anymore etc… She seems to be OK with my kids who are younger 6 and 9. It is like she does not see them as “People” so she likes them…BUT she will NOT allow touch from anyone….UNLESS she is in the crate….I have rubbed her, brushed her and put on a collar…and she has not even tried to bite now that she has settled. After about 6 months here, we had the vet knock her out, transport her, spay, microchip & vaccinate her. He believes she is 3 or 4 and maybe born on the property. That may be why she is more feral than the others. The problem I am having now is that my Queensland is confined to this small area during the day(bedroom/patio yard) and entire yard at night-with her only…but he no longer is out playing with our little dogs because Socks looks at them and has gone after them to eat them…..IF I secure her and bring the Queensland out, she can clear a 6 foot fence easy to get to him and be with him. So I have several issues…I can not trust her with little dogs….and it is a train wreck waiting to happen if(when) she got out and got to them. My Queensland is lonely and is starting to show aggression toward her. She does fine with large dogs and we have had 7 or 8 here at once and she plays OK….but a Medium or small dog…she see’s food….My kids are sad and so am I that our Queensland is not with us all the time, like he used to be…I felt if I got to where I can lead her on a leash and make more progress I could work on the little dog issue, BUT we have not made anymore progress. We have decided that within the month we should put her down, before a bad situation happensL But first I decided to reach out to maybe find her a place to go and maybe go to that next level that I can not get her to….a place where the person has a good set up to keep her safe(enclosed kennel with access to indoors), no small animals and a person who knows what they are doing……..if this is you please E mail me at:

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Race Update

Remember Race? We got an update on him. A Dog Town Canine Rescue volunteer spent her birthday volunteering at Best Friends (what an awesome way to spend you birthday). She sent this update about Race.

"Wanted to let you know that I have been working with Racer (A Gabbs Dog) and another Feral dog in his run this week.
I did not remember much about him, so I went slow and easy with him. He does seem to be happy. He is doing much better than the other feral dog that he lives with. I wish I had a couple of months down there to work with him. I believe he does have a chance to become adoptable, but needs to be worked with on a daily basis and spend almost the whole day with people. I do not know how much time the caregiver's have to just sit with the feral dogs. He let me put his food dish down and when he was done, take it away. He eats on his bed. Wed. and Thurs. he was coming out to where I was sitting and would come out when I would go next run.

Most of the dogs that that live in these buildings are red collared, which means volunteers cannot go into the runs. Some of the dogs have green collars. I could work with them and go into their area. Most only have 1 dog in, as most of the dogs are aggressive towards other dogs. Racer and the other feral are not aggressive, so the two dogs live in the same run. Racer had his bed inside and I not sure if another bed could fit in there, that is how small it was. There other feral must come in during the winter, though I noticed the dog house that is under a tent had hay in it."

Race inside the kennel.

If you are interested in adopting Race, please contact Best Friends.

We Love You Race!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Good Story

While the following story does not give an update on any of the Gabbs Dogs, it is a great story that we can all relate to.

A man and his dog were walking along a road. The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead. He remembered dying, and that the dog walking beside him had been dead for years. He wondered where the road was leading them.

After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble. At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch that glowed in the sunlight. When he was standing before it he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother-of-pearl, and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold. He and the dog walked toward the gate, and as he got closer, he saw a man at a desk to one side. When he was close enough, he called out, 'Excuse me, where are we?'

'This is Heaven, sir,' the man answered.

'Wow! Would you happen to have some water?' the man asked.

‘Of course, sir. Come right in, and I'll have some ice water brought right up.' The man gestured, and the gate began to open.

'Can my friend,' gesturing toward his dog, 'come in, too?' the traveler asked.

'I'm sorry, sir, but we don't accept pets.'

The man thought a moment and then turned back toward the road and continued the way he had been going with his dog. After another long walk, and at the top of another long hill, he came to a dirt road leading through a farm gate that looked as if it had never been closed. There was no fence. As he approached the gate, he saw a man inside, leaning against a tree and reading a book.

'Excuse me!' he called to the man. 'Do you have any water?'

'Yeah, sure, there's a pump over there, come on in.'

'How about my friend here?' the traveler gestured to the dog.

'There should be a bowl by the pump.'

They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was an old-fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it. The traveler filled the water bowl and took a long drink himself, then gave some to the dog. When they were full, he and the dog walked back toward the man who was standing by the tree.

'What do you call this place?' the traveler asked.

'This is Heaven,' he answered.

'Well, that's confusing,' the traveler said. 'The man down the road said that was Heaven, too.'

'Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates? Nope. That's hell.'

'Doesn't it make you mad for them to use your name like that?'

'No, we're just happy that they screen out the folks who would leave their best friends behind.'

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Couple of Updates

Ruby is back. Our little ladies' family hit some hard times and brought her back. If you would like to give this wonderful girl a home, please contact B.A.R.K.

Gabbs, the name sake of the ranch, is now looking for a home. We hope to get his story up soon. If you have any questions, please let us know or contact B.A.R.K.

Macy (aka Oopsie) at Gabbs

Here is a picutre of Macy at the Gabbs Ranch, submitted by Robin W.

WOW! She looks like a new dog now. Keep up the great work Macy!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

MACY (a.k.a. Oopsie)

Hello. My name is Beth and my partner and I adopted a Gabbs Nevada dog back in April of last year. We got her from the East Bay Humane Society. Her former name was Oppsie but we couldn't stand that so we renamed her Macy.

She is a dear-hearted dog. I've been reading the blog for quite awhile and I'd say Macy is further along than some and further behind than others. My favorite quote from the site was something about "the Gabbs stare." She can easily get "that look."

When we adopted her from the shelter I don't think they really knew what they had. And even though I am a very experienced dog owner (former E.D. of an animal shelter, many classes on canine behavior) I didn't understand what I was getting into with her. The saving grace for us is that Macy is wonderful off leash on a hike or large dog area. We live in the Bay Area so I hike with her most days in the Tilden hills or we take her to Albany Bulb or Pt Isabel. To meet her off leash you would never know there is any problems. She is quick to great everyone, comes when called (unless something goes 'wrong'), plays well with all dogs, and wants to stop every few feet and be kissed on. She even enjoys car rides! She is good on a leash for walks in a neighborhood.

Macy in the car

At home is a totally different story. Given where they lived she still hasn't adjusted to many things found in a home. She has "safe spots" which are both of our bathrooms. At night she sleeps in the bedroom with us on her dog bed. But during the day she is still not comfortable roaming around the house with us. The few times she comes into the kitchen or living room she stands there and stares at everything, ever alert for something "wrong" to happen. And "wrong" for her is often shadows! I'm not sure if they had many shadows where they lived but she doesn't like them at all. She walks into a room and scopes out any shadow - from a light, thru a window, on a wall - and then if she can stay there she is very vigilant to keep her eye on it. Most people who come to the house wouldn't even know we have a second dog unless they use the bathroom.

What has been interesting is that she has been great at other ppl's houses! We have her in a play group for off leash hikes on the days I'm not working at home and she loves them. When we are out of town she stays with our dog walkers and when she is there she roams around their house with them. We were shocked to hear that. Then we took her to my parents house and sure enough she stayed with me wherever I went in the house. We have figured out at this point that if we want her to feel well adjusted at our home we will have to move. And as many of you dog lovers know, we end up doing a lot for our dogs but buying a new home is too much! :-)

Macy's Safe Place

We've had Macy for about 1.5 years now. I love her like crazy and I'm not sure if I had it do again I'd take on a Gabbs Nevada dog. I'm grateful that we are providing her a good home for her later years and I'm glad for the joyful times we have with her and there are times when it is really hard; she bolts at a loud noise if outdoors, I have to leash her in the house to move her around a lot of times, 50% of the time I have to feed her by hand to get her started eating, she won't eat in the kitchen with our other dog she will only eat in the bathroom, she won't come when you call her except on the trail and the list goes on. If I'd never had great take-anywhere-dogs before Macy I might not find it so hard but if I hadn't had dogs before I'd be in so much more over my head than I am.

But then I go for our daily walk and get loved on, see her stop right in front of strangers on the trail so they can love on her and I see this happy girl and I think I couldn't live without her in my life.

I'd love to connect with other Gabbs dog people. I always appreciate the stories I read on the blog. I'm very curious about the woman who had them. Has there been much info on her beyond what you can find on the web? When we got Macy I went right home and got on the computer to learn more about the situation she was raised in. I was fortunate to connect with Shannon Asquith and others from the Reno shelter and Best Friends. They gave me a better idea of what her situation was so I could work with her. I wish my shelter had known more about this and been able to pass on more information.

Anyway, thanks for being a part of a community who is helping these special dogs. No dog should have had to go thru what they did and fortunately won't again, at least not in Gabbs.

Macy enjoying the trails


Friday, September 4, 2009

Quick Note...

So it has been pretty quiet on the Gabbs Dogs front. We know there are plenty of stories and updates out there. Please send them our way... we love to share stories. Remember... no update is too small or insignificant and questions are always welcome. No one can do this work alone so this is the place to renew your Gabbs energy.

Keep growing, barking and stealing couches our little Gabbs population.

Love ya all!!

Sunday, August 9, 2009


GREAT news on the adoption front...

Both Chester and Prancer have found homes of their own. Prancer will be romping the hills around Carson City with his new family. While Chester will be exploring the mountains around Truckee.

Hope to hear how they are doing in the new digs soon!!

Congratulations to both Chester & Prancer.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A note from Robin

Mango came out of Gabbs, described by one of the ranch hands as "mean and dog aggressive".

Mango at Gabbs

Mango The coat of many colors

His coat was bleached and matted and he had a sad face. There was something in his dull eyes that made me think really hard about taking him. So I brought him out of the pen on a leash and allowed my big yellow lab Teddy do an off leash temperament test on him, he passed that and deferred to Ted and so I also let Lucy my Border Collie cross matriarch out off leash. He gave to her as well, so I lifted him up into the back of the truck (I have a crate big enough for eight or nine dogs) and we drove back via Lake Alpine and camped overnight. He was doing great! I have a soft spot for Labs and somehow we connected.

Part of my rehabilitation protocol at my home is something called large field socialization and I work in an eighty acre field with a pack of between seven and fourteen dogs. The large area allows the dogs to relax and just run and play. If they feel intimidated or extra brave the large area allows them to select the dogs they want to meet and greet first and also allows them to give the more exuberant dogs a wide berth until they feel more confident. They use the space to manage the intensity of the energy in the group, spread out or move together, walk quietly sniffing the ground or play catch me if you can! We walk together around as a pack and I provide leadership for the group. Often times the dogs select from the group a playmate of matching energy and within two or three sessions even the shy dogs are getting involved with at least one other dog. Often they will pair up. Also there is the old two is company three is a crowd and one tries to join an existing pair, this often does not work, because the dynamic is different but it actually helps the dog gain calmness when they are ignored by the pair of best friends. When I let Mango off leash for the first time he took off and ran and ran away from the group for about 800 yards then stopped and turned and stood and watched. Waiting to see what I would do, expecting me to pay attention to him and follow him. I turned and walked in the opposite direction. he stood there for what seemed an eternity, then sniffed the ground, then looked up decided that he wanted to be with us and ran back to the group at full speed. Thankfully!

Mango in the fields

Early on, in spite of being a bulky dufus, Mango was pretty timid for a Lab and easily surprised, his first visit to the Orvis store was a typical Mango moment, being a Lab he was bouncy and pulling on the leash curious and sniffing until he sniffed a fishing net a little too hard and it crashed to the ground bringing several other display items down with it. He had a little panic attack but calmed down within a minute or two. He was a lot more careful with his body when we went in there again! Over a period of a few weeks he was socialized every day and gradually acquired his wonderful Labrador temperament, obedience training went well, leash training was a big step forward because he is a big boy and could pull like a steam train at first. He would drop his shoulder and pull towards whatever was interesting his nose at the time dragging whoever was on the other end of the leash along like a dragging anchor!

Any way Mango never showed any behavioral problems and once he had reduced his anxiety, built up his trust and acquired a solid foundation of obedience training he turned into a perfect dog. I came to the conclusion after a lot of testing that he did not have a mean bone in his body!

Off leash he started to respond well and I do try to work the dogs off leash as much as possible, easier with some dogs than others! My opinion is if your dog will not come with you off leash, you don't have a dog!

I invest a lot of myself into building the relationship with the dogs I rescue and the hard part is acknowledging when they are ready to take the next step and find a permanent home. While I am working with the dogs in public I often drop a hint that they might be ready soon so that I build up a list of potential families. Word of mouth is very valuable too, often people say that they know someone who might be interested. I interviewed a couple of potential families and then one of my contacts whose opinion I value contacted me saying they had a friend who was looking for a family dog. They lived in OC, quite a way from the Bay area but after a chat on the phone we decided that Mango would be a good fit. They had two boys who were in their early teens and he was still kind of bouncy, might have been a handful for younger kids, not mean or anything but they might have been knocked over!

Mango after his rehab and a few days before he went on to his forever home, a little wistful, I hope counting his blessings!

Mango on the road trip going down to OC

A little over a year has gone by and I had an email from the family today :

Mango is the most wonderful dog anyone could ever have. He is as much one of the family as we are. He goes everywhere we do. Camping , desert and Tahoe and Sierras. We could not have a better dog. Still the kisser and hugger. Attracts everyone. Loves doggie Park.

Best wishes,

Aaah! Love Happy Endings!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A note from Robin

I saw a question about whether anyone had success with massage as a therapy for any Gabbs Dogs.

In my experience it can be a great benefit, I use it routinely in the rehabilitation of many of my rescues. Here is a photo of Dinky looking relaxed. She has had a leash walk of about an hour and then a 45 minutes massage. Please also bear in mind that she is in a shelter pen, with
barking dogs all around her and I am standing over her holding the camera!

Also the short video clip a few notes down on this blog, taken at a different time, of Dinky receiving the collar and leash was also after about 35 minutes of massage. I have the video of the whole session but it is pretty boring to watch, if anyone desperately wants to see it I can burn it to DVD or probably upload segments onto the internet, just let me know!


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wags for Wine

Fundraiser for Dog Town Canine Rescue:

Dog Town as helped many of the Gabbs Dogs, including Buffy, Katie, Dinky, Chester, Harold, Oscar and more. Let's help them continue to help us and all the others dogs needing help too.

Get Ready to Party for Dogs!
It's time again for our "big" event, Wags for Wine! Yes, we're puttin' on the ritz again this year at D'Vine Wine right here in Carson City. Join us for a doggone fun-filled evening of food, drink, silent auction, and live music all to raise money for Dog Town's new shelter facility! Last year we blew the doors off D'Vine with one of the largest crowds they had ever seen. To purchase tickets in advance, please call Mary at: (775) 267-2059 or you can buy them online via PayPal at their website.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Videos from Robin Wenham

Here are a few videos from Robin. He has done such a wonderful job in his work with the Gabbs Dogs. Thanks Robin!!

Robin working with Dinky Pt 1

Robin working with Dinky Pt 2

Robin working with Harold

You can check out more of Robin's work at his rescue center Cirrus Ranch.

Friday, July 10, 2009

KATIE has Gone Camping

Katie is a real civilized dog these days. Here's a picture of her with her brother, Archie out camping over the Fourth of July weekend.

Kudos to Katie!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Notes from Robin Wenham
The Early Days

"There are some pieces of news that just make the hair stand up on the back of my neck."

The message that came through the Rescue Network one afternoon was one of those. A lady who had been running a dog rescue on a three thousand acre ranch in Northern Nevada had died suddenly, leaving over 150 dogs in pens with no one to care for them. Several people stepped up to the plate to care for them temporarily but the goal was to re home all the dogs.

Let me introduce myself, my name is Robin. I have been called dogrobin a lot, Robin Hood several times and Robin Bastard once. (you can't please all the people, all the time!)
I am an experienced professional dog trainer, a specialist in difficult dog behavior and rehabilitation. I had recently attended a course at Best Friends Animal Society in Utah on running an animal sanctuary. I am now in the process of starting a sanctuary and dog trainers school ( At the time my dream was in the early stages of development.
At Best Friends I met a lot of wonderful caring people and we talked a lot about the systems and processes of a rescue organization. Even Best Friends has a challenge in situations like this. They have an amazing place, if you have never been you should go. Three thousand acres of Utah and the largest sanctuary in the country , but at that moment they were completely full. As they are almost continually! As I have worked with several rescue organizations I have come to realize that the huge emotional challenge for everyone, and one that I have to come to terms with, is that I am never going to run out of dogs! In fact unless I am able to take joy from each dog that I help, I can feel overwhelmed. There is always ten (actually 4.7 million!) more to take the place of the one you just re homed!
150 dogs

"I was gobsmacked! I mean, what could I do? I live over 400 miles away! How could I make a difference? How exactly could anyone re -home 150 dogs when even a sanctuary that has been established for 30 years and employs 300 staff did not have the space or processes to take them in?" I am just me, I live in a small cottage with a small yard in the middle of town!
I had no idea what I could do to help, I was thinking about this situation morning, noon and night. The logical part of my brain said " it is not your problem" but I am blessed with a vivid imagination and the pictures I had created of those dogs "waiting for god" as the saying goes, was overwhelming.

My daughter Christine and I were going on a summer vacation road trip to Best Friends in Utah, via Bryce Canyon, Zion NP and the Grand Canyon, in a few days and so the logical side of my brain said "Why not go check out the situation? See if there is anything we can do to help." How many of these dogs are going to be re-homeable anyway? It must be pretty desperate. The place is in the middle of nowhere, where did they all come from? Maybe these guys are wild as shit and aggressive! Maybe there is nothing I can do for them. At least I will know some of the facts. How can I harness my skills? I can do behavioral evaluations, lots of people can't do that. Maybe take some digital photographs, put them up on Petfinder? I kept telling myself, no more dogs at home, think of the neighbors, I don't have space, be sensible. It is not your problem Robin. But, of course, it is. In my opinion we all share responsibility for caring about others. We all have a responsibility for the challenges and problems we humans inflict in the world. We have a responsibility for the children, the elderly, the animals, the impact we have on the planet.
So Christine and I decided to drive out to Mammoth and then to Gabbs to try to take digital photos of the dogs which we could put onto the internet. I also wanted to undertake evaluations of their personalities because I was concerned that they might be aggressive. As it turned out nothing could have been further from the truth. While many were under socialized to humans and somewhat surprisingly, to dogs, very few gave me any concern that they might be unadoptable, given careful rehabilitation. I did manage to listen to the logic voice, knowing that we had two more weeks of road trip in front of us. We carried on with the vacation, including a planned visit to Best Friends in Utah.

I could not get these dogs faces out of my mind and the more I thought about them the stronger my conviction. I became determined to try to do "something" to help them. "I could not get these dogs faces out of my mind"

Mango at Gabbs

"I know I can't take all of them, but I will do what I can, even knowing that it is not enough, will never be enough!"

The Seven Dog Rug
A short while later I rented a truck and in spite of my logic saying too many dogs I drove back to the ranch and collected four dogs to work with from my home and hopefully find new homes. Laffy Taffy, Stinky, Mango and Peanut joined my pack of Teddy, Lucy and Tucker. I am going to tell you, in a small home and a small yard, that is a lot of dog hair and a huge pile of poop!

Then There Were Eight!
Then I got the call that Best Friends had a kennel available for five dogs, but no transport. I knew that kennel would not be free for long! So I rented a cargo van, took my seven dogs for a road trip for the weekend. Left the Bay Area Friday afternoon, slept in the van with the dogs overnight at the top of the Sonora Pass, saw 17 degrees in the mountains in the morning! Went back out to Gabbs and collected another six dogs and took a drive down to Utah to the Best Friends Sanctuary arrived late evening, got stopped by the local law for speeding, oops, sorry officer, dogs barking in the back, my face bleeding from a nick one of the dogs gave me while we were loading, slept in the van overnight and unloaded the Famous Five in the morning. Then back to the Bay Area, 1,700 miles on the odometer by Sunday afternoon and a snooze on the couch with my eight dog rug! Those of you good at maths will see the flaw in the previous paragraph. Which is how I came back with eight dogs! Dancing Man joined my pack.
I don't want it to sound as if I was doing all the work. A wonderful lady called Kris from Safe Haven at Yerrington was the glue that was holding everything together at the ranch, making several trips a week to keep tabs on their well being as well as rescuing and re-homing many of the early dogs. Kris was also instrumental in coordinating not only the early rescues, but also the big push to move the remaining dogs into safe places. She deserves far more recognition! Yay for Kris!!!!!

I was hoping that by keeping the ball rolling that someone else might find some inspiration and step in too. Even knowing I could not help them all I felt that I just had to do something, I could not just stand by and watch. And as I say “ Every guy should have a hobby!” So much of my life for several months has revolved about feeding training, socializing and grooming and then gradually they found homes, one by one people stepped up and took a chance on a rescued dog.

In "rehab"
Laffy Taffy and Mango, Stinky in the background
(Mango was labelled "dog aggressive" by the ranch hands at Gabbs)

Dinky and Harold
"Out of the frying pan into the fire?"

When the teams from several rescue groups were involved in resolving a hoarding situation in the northern Nevada desert in the middle of winter they searched far and wide to find shelters with available space who would be prepared to house these guys and try to prepare them for rehoming. This was how Dinky and Harold found their way to the Peninsula Humane Society over 400 miles from Gabbs, Nevada.

"Harold and Dinky are withdrawn and scared to deathof any human contact."
I was called in for support when PHS found that they were so skittish and fearful that the regular staff were unable to approach them. The dogs were not doing well, they seemed to be very stressed just from the change of environment. The ranch they came from was in the middle of nowhere and they were living outside in the peace and quiet, all of a sudden they were in a busy metropolitan shelter. There was already talk of “the humane option”. A euphemism for euthanasia. Fortunately PHS had made a commitment, when they were asked to help, to do everything they could to rehabilitate these dogs. "You should have seen their faceswhen I turned up for the first session carrying a beach chairand a copy of James Herriot’s stories!"

Harold, pensive!

I visited the shelter and with the support of the staff set up a schedule to start the rehabilitation process. You should have seen their faces when I turned up for the first session carrying a beach chair and a copy of James Herriot’s stories! My reasoning was that I would try to reduce the fears of the dogs by settling down leaning back in a relaxed position and get them used to hearing my voice tones so that I would be able to work with them without them feeling stress. So the first few sessions I read aloud to the dogs, they became used to my presence.


I measured the success by videoing the sessions and playing it back afterwards frame by frame. I needed to do this because I would not look at the dogs at all while I was in the pen, zero eye contact, for several days, to desensitize them to having someone so close. In order to see what was going on from the dog’s perspective I would watch the video and look for when the dogs were watching me and look for changes in their body language, the way they were standing, then sitting, then how long before they lie down, for example. What their eye contact was like and how disturbed they appeared when someone walked past the outside of the pen, and so on. Then the next session I would incorporate slightly different tests, placing the chair at a different angle to the front of the pen or slightly closer to the dog. I measured the dog’s stress levels by placing small spots of a liver paste or peanut paste on the floor, dropping small slivers of roast beef, or roast chicken at a short distance from the dog. For the first few days they would ignore the treats altogether. Then one day I stepped outside the pen for a moment to answer a call and when I turned around I saw that Harold had vacuumed up the treats.

Harold takes treats from hand!

So I could see that he was gaining confidence, a little at a time. I had some difficulties because it seemed as if just as we could see some progress the management would change the pen, either to another pen in a different block or sometimes just a different group of dogs were added or taken away as companions to Harold and Dinky. Each time that happened I was not surprised to see some regression in the desensitization. Then one day we turned a corner and Harold literally fell asleep with me in the pen reading to him. Next session he took some peanut paste form my hand and we continued to make solid progress, slow but sure.

Harold takes a treat!
Harold literally fell asleep with me in the pen reading to him.
Dinky was a little quicker in getting used to my presence but when I was not there I heard stories of her pacing the pen and not relaxing at all during the day, then she went off her food. I sensed that she was struggling with the restrictions and I am a firm believer that if you want to reduce a dog’s stress you have to let the dog be a dog, see daylight, play with other dogs and enjoy the sights and smells of the great outdoors.

The difficulty was that although I had dealt with several of the rescued dogs from Gabbs the one thing they had in common was that they had, to all intents and purposes, never seen a leash let alone been taken for a walk on one. In fact I had been fortunate enough to use the pack dynamics of my own dogs to teach the rescues several important skills all off leash.
Several of the dogs from Gabbs, when first leashed, pulled, balked, or did a laydown freeze or sometimes perform a trick that came to be called the “roped crocodile” where they would spin lying down rollovers a number of times very fast all in the same direction. This had the unfortunate result if people were using wire slips or catchpoles, that the cord would wrap tighter and tighter around the neck of the dog causing it to panic.

"One of the difficulties at the PHS is that it is a fully fenced urban shelter. There is very little opportunity for the dogs to be taken out for a walk in a low stress environment. Especially any dogs that were a flight risk as these guys were! Even a walk along a neighboring trail was likely to be like running a gauntlet of kids on bicycles, joggers and so on.

Visiting several times a week, these dogs made amazing progress and soon the staff were taking an interest in them. Meanwhile I continued the socialization work and progressed to body massage. Then we worked on leash training. I took to taking Dinky out for a leash walk along a quiet footpath by the bayshore and along a little beach nearby where she took great delight in watching and smelling the seabirds, holding her head high to draw in the fishy smell of the bay. After a few days of this she started to meet my visits with a lot more enthusiasm and we got out of the pen and through the gauntlet of barking pitbulls that lined the way to the rear door of the building.

"Unfortunately she was still a flight risk,when ever I took her round to the play areashe would always do a perimeter searchand gaze longingly at the top of the 8 foot fencethat surrounds the play yard."

Once again I was distressed to hear talk about their progress being too slow, as a volunteer I had invested a lot of myself emotionally and physically and I felt sick to my stomach that they might not be given the time they needed to become Canine Good Citizens. I was sure they could make the grade. They had been amazingly tolerant of what must have been a pretty stressful time in their lives and there was definitely a light at the end of the tunnel. Fortunately with a bit of help from prayer to the patron saint of dogs and the wonders of modern technology several wonderful people in the Dog Rescue Network, Kris from Yerrington stepped up to the plate again, connected with several wonderful people who came forward to offer them foster homes in rural Nevada where their quirks might not be as distressing as they would be for the average homeowner in the San Francisco metropolitan area.

"Many of the foster homes seem to have got attached to these guys, just as I did, I wish them long and happy lives."


Age and illness finally proved to much for Bubba and Girlfriend. They spent their lives together at the ranch. In the end, they crossed together. Now they are together forever under two trees which Dama always promised them they would have.

Bubba and Girlfriend, you will be missed.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Willa (a.k.a. Shy Girl)

It's been a rocky road for Shy Girl, but she is now safe and sound in her forever home. Willa, as we call her, is probably around 6 years old, and loves napping in the sunshine, eating treats, and hanging out with her new brother Chew Boo, a senior retriever, and sister Daisy, a bossy shepherdy mix. She was adopted from East Bay SPCA in Oakland, CA.


Monday, June 1, 2009

ARNIE Update

Arnie and I met with Robin Wenham of Cirrus Ranch last Wednesday to see if he could help me get Arnie started walking on leash. As many of you know, it was Robin who transported the Gabbs dogs that had to be re-rescued from shelters in the San Francisco Bay area back to B.A.R.K. and Dog Town Rescue. He also taught Dinky to walk on leash.

By the end of the three-hour training session, Robin had Arnie walking on leash, too. I tried the same routine out for myself that evening and, with a little encouragement, Arnie got up and walked from the house to his crate in the garage and back, with several stops on the way for treats. We did the same thing twice yesterday and again today. He still panics occasionally, but he seems more relaxed each time we do it, so he's getting 2-3 such walks a day for the next week or two.

Arnie has also lost quite a lot of weight. He was a solid cylinder from neck to butt when he arrived and is now developing curves in the right places. Could he have lost 20 pounds in eight weeks?

Arnie's Dad

Keep up the good work, Arnie!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

On to my Forever Home

Bringing Dinky home was quite the adventure… after spending around 6 hours in car, getting put into my car for another 1 hour, she finally was able to get out and of course go to the bathroom (that was probably the easiest task in our first week together). I had only had two foster dogs before her and to be honest they spoiled me… to say the least. Since Dinky had had such a big day, I decided to let her just try to figure out the new digs.

Dinky scared and hiding

So our bath adventure began on Day 2, and it resembled a cartoon of giving Garfield a bath. She did not like the bathroom at all, and since it was summer, I though it would be okay to do the bath outside. This poor little girl does not trust people yet, so I have her on a leash, am trying to get her wet with the hose and then get close enough to shampoo her. It was crazy… I don’t know who was more dizzy, me or her. It was around and around and around. I seemed like it took 2 hours, but it was probably closer to 20-30 minutes. When I finally let go of the leash, she couldn’t get away from me fast enough. She will probably never understand that the bath was for her good… but it is an adventure that I will never forget.

Dinky after her bath

Day 3 lead to the next adventure… leaving her home while I went out. It was a good friend’s 50th birthday, and as I said before my previous fosters had spoiled me, so I didn’t think twice about leaving her in the house with my other dogs, Mikey and Angel. I only stayed about 3 hours, as I wanted to get home and check on Dinky. As I walked in the door, I could just tell something was wrong. I rounded the corner into my living and oh my goodness… my heart just sank. I felt so bad for leaving Dinky. She was so scared that she had gone crazy, tearing up pillows, destroying blinds, chewing power chords, ripping up books. You can see by the pictures that she really did a number trying to get out of the house. Looking back I now know that since she had never been in a house before, everything freaked her out. Well, I will not make that mistake again. Thus began the crate training and to my surprise she took to it very well. So when I am not home, she goes into her crate and since then we have been working on being left out a little bit at time and she has worked up to being inside alone for 3 hours.

Chewed chord and destroyed blinds

After a few weeks with Dinky, I began questioning myself and what I was not accomplishing with Dinky. I had never met a dog that did not warm up to me and it seemed as though Dinky and I were not working out. She wouldn’t take treats from me, I had to leave the room for her to eat; she basically wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. Lucky for me she had at least formed a bond with Mikey and Angel. I was talking to Lorayn at Dog Town who was willing to find an alternate placement, but I just didn’t want to give up yet. So she suggested that I talk to Mary Ann, foster Mom (now forever Mom) to Buffy, another Gabbs dog. What a relief… for the first time I felt like I really wasn’t doing anything wrong. Mary Ann and Buffy were going through the same obstacles. I finally felt in my heart that Dinky was in the right spot and that I just needed to relax and let her open up at her own pace.

Through the months, there were good days and bad. It would seem like we made 1 step forward one day and 20 steps back the next. As long as we stuck to our routine things were great. And then… I got sick and was hospitalized for 4 days. Oh boy, it was like we were back to square one. I thought things might bounce back quickly, but it took Dinky a month to get back into the swing of things. I don’t blame her… I disappear and there are two strangers (her future Grandparents) trying to take care of her. But we did make it back to our “normalcy” and have stayed on our road to healing.

Happy Dinky

There are so many stories I would love to share… Dinky has definitely been an adventure in my life. She has really bonded with my other dogs and has learned from them how to be a dog. Doesn’t that sound funny? She will play tag with them, wrestle at times, and even sneak off with toys. She will take treats from me now… especially cheese. And we are still working on her coming to me. She is fine with me going into her safe place now, but still will not approach me. It is strange, but even though Dinky and I still have a lot of work to do, I cannot imagine my life without her now.

Dinky with her new brother Mikey

BTW – In January 2009, I decided to adopt Dinky. She has now found her forever home and has all the time she wants to heal.

Dinky is a Gem!