To know her is to love her. Or, at least to try! Sissy came to Cape Ann Animal Aid as a pregnant mom-to-be, and stole the hearts of many at the shelter. But, she was timid, nervous, and not quick to trust. Today, we are sharing the story of her journey that started in Texas and ended in her forever home! We're so glad that stories like theirs can have a new beginning thanks to the support of the Petco Foundation. Because of their generous investment in our live saving work, we can continue to provide homes for animals like Sissy and her babies despite all that is going on in the world around us.
Sissy initially came to us from Texas, through our rescue partner Chances Dog Rescue and Relocation. Tiffany Menard, Director of Chances, shares with us the story of how she came to them:
"She came to us via the Animal Control Officer (ACO) in a rural county outside of southwest Houston. He was called to the property by the authorities (the sheriff, I believe), and he found many, many, many dogs. It was clearly a hoarding case, but there are also clear signs of neglect. None of the dogs were inside, none we altered, none were licensed, and no rabies information could be found on any of them. No food, water or outdoor shelter was available to the dogs either. In all, 16 dogs were seized from the property that day. 2 were humanely euthanized due to medical issues, and the rest were taken in by the ACO.
There were 2 adults - Sissy and Henry (the black pup who appears next to her in at least one of the pictures) and 2 litters of puppies. Henry stayed with the ACO, but a foster took in Sissy and the puppies since it was clear they needed some more TLC.
I wish Sissy's beginning was an uncommon one. It is not.
The foster has a large ranch, and she worked hard to socialize the puppies. She also spent considerable time with Sissy, who was very shy. Sissy was unsure of herself enough though to walk only in a crouch. In fact, in the beginning, she wouldn't walk at all and needed to be carried outside to relieve herself. After a few days of TLC she was willing to walk on her own, but stayed low to the ground. She had gentle eyes and craved affection though. She returned pets and quiet conversation with sweet, gentle kisses. She was content to just lay down near her foster. She was happy in the company of other dogs, but did not love the wild, roughhousing puppies. Within less than a week, it became apparent that she was likely pregnant. Thankfully, we had an upcoming transport to Cape Ann and she was able to make the trip. (Henry and the wild puppies were transported to another partner organization, so the entire crew ended up safe and up north.)
I wish Sissy's beginning was an uncommon one. It is not. While Houston itself has a massive animal control / care issue, the rural counties possibly have it even worse. Dogs are routinely not spayed / neutered or even vaccinated. Some dogs are tethered to trees or truck bumpers or porches. Most roam free. Very few live inside homes as pets. While owners are required to provide access to food, water and shelter, many do not, and there are not enough ACOs to police this (or judges to enforce it). The dangers are countless - cars, wild animals, aggressive domesticated / owned animals, evil people, gun owning dog hating property owners, etc. ACOs pick up unwanted, abused, neglected and sick animals, but have very few resources for them. The counties prefer to euthanize animals after the required 72-hour stray hold - as it is a cheaper option than sheltering them and paying for care staff. The ACO who picked up Sissy actually built a shelter on his property to house dogs while he networked them to rescues."
Sissy was transferred in to CAAA on December 17th. Just 5 days later, on December 22nd, she gave birth to her two puppies, a boy and a girl.
Sissy was sweet and calm in the shelter, but hesitant. It was clear she wasn't sure whether or not to trust anyone. Shortly after giving birth, right after the new year, Sissy and her two puppies, Buddy and Minnie, went into foster with a staff member.
It was very hard on Kevin to see how scared she was of him.
Once in foster, it became obvious to all that Sissy was going to need a special home to adopt her. She was very nervous in the home, especially around men. She would growl and bark at the man in the house, and wouldn't even walk by him. Mindy, Sissy's foster mom, wrote:
"She would stay in the foster dog room with her pups even when her pups would come out of the room she would only come out with me. It was very hard on Kevin to see how scared she was of him. But he would talk to her even when she would bark at him.. such a kind soul he is.."
Sissy and her puppy, Minnie (now Nova)
Sissy, Minnie, and Buddy all stayed with Mindy and Kevin until the puppies reached 8 weeks of age, at which point they returned to the shelter. Minnie and Buddy were subsequently adopted out to their own forever homes, while Sissy waited in the shelter for her own Spay surgery.
In the shelter, Sissy began to slowly open up, though she continued to be very wary of visitors and would hide from and bark at anyone who would walk by the office. A dog who clearly loved and cherished "her people", she bonded well with several staff members that she saw on a regular basis, though it did require patience.
Around other dogs, however, staff began to see her really shine. With puppies, she was playful and excitable. It became apparent that Sissy would thrive most in a home with a companion of her own to bring her out of her shell.
Now, it’s like a whole different Sissy With PAL showing her how to trust
UPDATE ON MINNIE (NOW NOVA)
Sissy's puppies had their own happy endings! Minnie, now Nova, found her forever home with some new friends of her own! Her adopter writes:
"We had no plans to get another dog. We already had 10 year old Kermit, the best behaved Boston Terrier around.
When I saw a picture of Nova, I thought “that’s exactly the kind of dog I would get if I was looking for one” then not another thought about it. When I heard that she was the only dog waiting for foster still in the shelter I convinced Kevin we could take her just for a week or two until she was adopted. She was so cute I knew she would be snatched up soon. Kevin was out of work due to Covid, so no excuses, he could be home with her.
So we met “Minnie”, she was a happy pup and she and Kermit got along great.
Those first few days everything she did was not only adorable but also hilarious. She is so clumsy and lovable. Her and my grandson play and snuggle a lot. We fell in love and decided to adopt.
She has brought us so much joy over the last month. She is a reason to get up and get moving, all that puppy energy needs to go somewhere. She is such a snuggler and she is a quick learner. Her and Kermit have become best friends."
If you have newspapers at home, we can certainly use them! You can drop off stacks of newspaper at the shelter, right outside the front doors, from 9am-2pm any day.
If you have the time, you can prep these newspapers to be easily used by our staff. Flattening out your stacks makes it super easy for staff to lay out stacks as they prepare multiple rooms for the arrival of many dogs and puppies! Transport arrivals can be busy, and having pre-flattened and pre-shredded paper saves time and frustration as we prepare for arrivals.
Watch this short video below for instructions on how to flatten your stacks for donating!
When Jane asked if I would write a blog about our experience fostering Lindor, I said “Why not, I’ve never written a blog, but then again I had never fostered a pregnant dog either!”. The funny thing is, my daughter Kate and I are actually cat volunteers, and my husband Kevin is not an animal person.
For those of you who have not had the privilege of meeting Lindor – I am truly sorry. For those of you who know and love her like we do, you will understand when I say she is a gift of a dog! Such a patient, sweet, gentle, smart, kind, full of love little puppy!
Lindor came to Cape Ann via a rescue group in Georgia. At only 6 months or so herself, it was surprising that such a young puppy could get pregnant. We had just finished fostering 3 of Zoe’s puppies over the holiday, when Nancy reached out to inquire if we would take in Lindor. After fostering 3 puppies, the idea of a more mature 6 month old didn’t sound too daunting. When Kate and I met Lindor she flopped on her back (as best she could with her giant pregnant belly) wiggled for belly rubs and then proceeded to give us lots of kisses. How could we resist that sweet little girl!! However, we just couldn’t call her “Lindor”! The moment we met her – she just became “Baby Mama”, or just “Baby” or just “Mama”.
Baby Mama easily adapted to our house, got along great with our Golden Retriever, and clearly loved being part of a family. She would follow us around (though her belly prevented her from walking upstairs at night), would give the sweetest cuddles, kisses and delighted greetings to anyone that visited, never had an accident in the house, and even though was just a pup herself never tried to chew a thing other than her toys. She was an absolutely wonderful addition to the family.
Over the next 2 weeks, Baby Mama continued to get bigger and bigger! For such a tiny dog, I was so surprised at how much her belly could expand! By the end of her second week with us – she looked like a turtle, and had a very difficult time navigating through doorways or ever getting comfortable to lie down. We offered her various dog beds & pillows but the floor was her preference.
We had a birthing room ready for her and did our best to be prepared but I was extremely nervous... Initially – we thought Baby Mama might have 6-7 pups since that was the number of fetal heartbeats that were picked up during her last vet exam. I couldn’t imagine how 6 or 7 could fit into her belly. The night before Baby Mama gave birth, I was just as nervous as the night I went into labor w/ my own daughter! I could tell she was uncomfortable so I stayed with her all night – resting on our living room couch while she fretted. At 7 am, with no labor happening, I went up to bed to lie down for a bit and, an hour or so later my husband came running up stairs yelling 2 pups had been born! By the time I got downstairs she was already working on pup # 3! This labor was happening crazy fast!!
Over the next couple of days, my daughter and I figured out a weighing routine, and more importantly a chart to try and tell them apart and name them. A few were relatively easy, since their markings were very distinct (Teeny was the runt, Captain the biggest, Panda looked like a Panda). We even named one of the pups after my husband Kevin (a little inside joke). With 13 babies to watch and ensure all were gaining weight, I was very focused on ensuring the smallest ones always had a spot at the belly. Teeny was ½ the size of her siblings but somehow she always managed to find a spot on top of a brother, or wiggled under Mama when no else else could get there! I was also very focused on ensuring Baby Mama’s was being taken care of. While she would leave the babies very briefly to go outside to do her business, then run frantically back to them, there were times I needed to encourage her to eat and so I would typically hand-feed her throughout the day while she was nursing. She seemed very grateful. I think anyone who has given birth before would appreciate a meal delivery in bed – even a dog!
At night we set up a weighing station and a chart to track the pups weight gain. When the first pup hit a pound (Captain) it was a celebration for sure (I felt like a proud Mama). During the first week, all the pups were gaining pretty well. In fact, they were growing so fast that the “big” bed I bought during the labor no longer seemed so big. By the middle of the second week, many of the pups continued to get bigger. The boys (Captain, Beanie, Cubby, George and Stinky) were gaining the most, while the smaller girls (Teeny, Kevin, Wilson and Ginger) were not gaining as fast, and then one day Wilson’s weight went flat. The next day, she lost a bit. Even though we tried to bottle feed – none of the pups would accept from us.
Then I noticed the a lump on Wilson’s back, and a lump under Panda’s chin.... I took a picture of Wilson’s back, showed it to Christina and the next day she was over to check out all the pups. While fever wasn’t present, a few of the pups were dehydrated, and a number of them had started to develop swollen lymph nodes. After consulting with the vet, the best course of action was to bring them to the shelter where they all were started on a round of antibiotics, some were given intravenous fluids, and all started on a bottle feed rotation. The pups had lower immunity since Mama just couldn’t make enough antibodies in her milk for all 13. While we were sad to see the pups leave our house, it was a tremendous relief that they would be under the constant love and care of all the staff and volunteers who loved them as much as we did. We visited 1-2 times a week to help with bottle feeding and I sure did celebrate when the lump on Wilson’s back finally went away!
Over the next few weeks at the shelter, as many of you know, the personality of the puppies came out. It was so fun to see their eyes open, their ears stand up, see them walk, learn how to play, eat puppy mush for the first time, try a sip of water, and see the little friend groups in the litter form. And, Baby Mama continued to be the best Mama dog even though her sore belly was getting scratched by sharp little nails, and tiny teeth that were forming.
It’s been about 9 weeks since Baby Mama gave birth. It is such a thrill that she has found her forever home! When people ask me about her babies, I always say that their Mama is the sweetest dog I have ever met – a beautiful, kind loving soul, so if the babies have just a fraction of that (which we know they do!) they are just as special. As I am writing this – we have Beanie in foster care until his forever home is found. It is remarkable to me when I look at him that he was born in our house only 9 weeks ago! He is just as sweet, smart and loving as his Mama!
Thank you so much to Leslie and the many fosters who took in her and her puppies during the COVID-19 crisis! Check back with us periodically as we share stories from our foster families and more.
Who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks?
As time continues to tick and Governor Baker's Stay At Home Advisory stretches into May, many of us are getting a head-start on some Spring Cleaning. Before you toss your old clothes into a bag to be donated, take a look at how easy it can be to take old clothes and make new toys! These toys are a great way to learn to braid. If you don't want to braid, check out how we used a hol-ee roller toy and simple knots to make a toy.
STEP 1: Gather up old tshirts
STEP 2: Cut into strips & knot 3 strips together
STEP 3: Braid the strips together and knot the end
It's that simple! You can use this as a toy itself, or try braiding other round toys or treats into the toy. Here are a few variations you can try at home, with other toys you may already have:
Bonus! Knot strips together into a small Cat Toy
Have other DIY ideas? We would love to see them! Tag us on social media or email your creative creations to firstname.lastname@example.org
Cape ann animal aid
An opportunity for you to learn more about the mission and programs of Cape Ann Animal Aid. Sharing candid insights, guest columns, breaking news, and of course, adorable photos of shelter animals.