This is the ongoing saga of Patches, a feral, unwanted stray in the Rio Grande Valley (along the Mexican border) in Texas.
This is a departure from our traveling blog series. While at home, Roger and I volunteer at a local no-kill shelter, Cinderella Pet Rescue.
Several months ago, another volunteer, Sharon, noticed a skinny, bedraggled small dog hanging out beside the busy road where we drive to and from the pet rescue.
Sharon stopped and gave the dog some food and called her “Patches” because, at the time, the dog’s ears were bald and bloody and she was missing patches of fur. She was limping and a real sad sack of a dog.
I began going to visit her and sat in a beach chair, low to the ground. She still wouldn't look directly at me. She would not take a treat from me. She wanted nothing to do with me. She had lived a solitary, sad life to this point, finding food and water wherever she could and hiding from predators. I didn't give up. I just kept visiting her, talking to her, (in her mind harassing her), and moved my chair ever closer until I could finally touch her. She didn't like it, but I did it anyway.
She was dirty and grungy and badly in need of a bath. It was way too soon for that -- she was already terrified of her new surroundings. She was also a flight risk -- and we knew if she got away from us, we'd never, ever catch her again without the fenced yard she happened to have her puppies in. I tried waterless shampoo with a microfiber cloth (which turned dark brown with every stroke), but the cloth freaked her out. A few days later I tried using a brush and lo and behold, she actually seemed to calm down and enjoy it! Since she couldn't have a bath yet, it was the best we could do.
She also became calm enough in my presence to take a nap. Here she is in her Igloo doghouse in the horse stall on probably the first soft blanket she'd ever known:
The second day that she was at Cinderella, we noticed she had not peed or pooped. Suzanne, the director of the shelter, suggested putting a pee pad into the stall to see if the different texture might get her to go. Sure enough, the next few days she did her business on the pee pads and we switched them out. She is a fastidious little girl!
She still would not take a dog treat from me. That made it difficult to bond with her. I looked on line and saw a suggestion to use cut up hot dogs. I had some (Kosher even!) at home, so I cut one up and took it with me on my next visit. She would not take it from me, but sniffed it and drooled, so I knew she wanted it. I laid it down and she ate it. After a few times, I left it in my hand, laid on the floor, and put my hand down where the hot dogs had been. She ate it! I repeated this several times and each time she would eat from my hand. I was SO excited!
She was starting to get accustomed to her surroundings. That let her personality start to break through. Initially that meant her frustration in being confined! She did not bark (I still have never heard her bark). But this is what she had done to her pee pad overnight, and also a Ziplock bag that held her harness:
I decided since she was so frustrated being shut inside, it was time to try to take her outdoors. I put a harness and a slip lead on her, and took her into an enclosed arena just in case she were to get loose. She pulled me over to a ramp and hid underneath.
I thought that day had gone well, but the next day when I went to visit, she would not even look at me. Would not take a hot dog from me. Wanted nothing to do with me! I went home dejected.
The next day I tried again, with Sharon's help. She found a harness that fit better and we carried her back into the arena (she would not walk.) Sharon took some photos of that day. I tried to crop myself out of the shots because we'd already walked the other shelter dogs all morning and I was a hot mess.
Patches liked being outdoors but was wary and constantly looking for danger.
She would not walk on a leash. We had to carry her to and from the arena. I decided to try this every day for a while and see if she would get used to being on a leash and being outside. I decided to drop the leashes and let her wander on her own. Predictably, she sought shelter under the ramp.
This was a very hot day, and I left her there and moved my beach chair into the shade. She peeked out to see where I was...
Then - OMG - she walked over and laid down near me!
She still wouldn't walk on a leash. Each time I'd pick up the leashes she would freeze.
But we kept it up every day. I noticed she was starting to be excited to see me and wanted to go out. She even wagged her crooked little tail! She would hold still and lift her legs for the harness because she associated it with going outside. When I'd open the gate to her stall, she now would walk out and even walk over into the arena. At this point she will walk on a leash and isn't terrified and trying to hide. She's come a long way!
Sharon and I decided she was finally ready for a bath. This was the day we'd waited for! She simply had to get clean enough to go to the spay/neuter clinic when her turn came. I carried Patches to the bathing tub.
Here she is squeaky clean: These are the photos you'll see on the Cinderella Pet Rescue website on the dogs-available-for-adoption page: