October 2011 


Where's MY costume?




Thoughts from an Average Foster Mom

I am an average Ratbone Rescues foster mom! Well, definitely a foster mom. When the subject of this column came up, someone suggested we run an article by an "average" foster mom. Unfortunately, on such short notice, I wasn't sure where to find that writer so I will have to be average enough.

I've been a doggy foster mom for 12 years now and in those years, I've had a number of memorable Rat Terrier boarders and a few I’d like to forget, like Max, who could jump straight up, 5 feet off the deck, plant all 4 feet flat against my patio door then drop back to the deck, time after time after time….. The good news, Max is now out there with his forever dad who loves him dearly and hopefully doesn't have a patio door.

I've always loved dogs and my favorites over the years were the terriers. I had Schnauzer, Scotty, Cairn and other mixes as well as non-terrier pets, then I discovered Rat Terriers and the die was cast. I just love these little guys and was sad to see how many were in shelters with little or no time left so I decided to try rescue. Caroline welcomed me and shortly, there were dogs!

The second Ratbone dog to come into my home was from Oklahoma and had severe mange. He stole so much of my heart, I couldn't part with him so Ducky became part of my family. By then, there were other temporary residents here. Over the years, they have brought excitement, surprise, joy, sorrow and sometimes frustration to my life. There was Willie, seized from a puppymill, whose feet were completely splayed from living on a wire floor. It took Willie 2 years to learn to keep his crate clean because he had never had a clean space. Willie went on to be adopted and follows his mom around the house like a gentle shadow who finally learned what love is.

Mattie was another puppymill dog, a terribly shy girl who presented me with six spotted puppies after she came to my house. All of them went off to homes, one traveled to New York, my first long distance placement. Even Mattie eventually found a home of her own, with the Maddys, so she became Mattie Maddy. Marshmellow Pirate was a big, lovable, all white beauty who could be easily mastered by little 8 pound Wicket and Spyk was an absolutely regal boy who really taught me to appreciate the big Ratties. Most favorite? Probably little Howie Ratdel who tried his best to steal my heart and succeeded but he needed a home of his own where he would be "best dog", like Ducky is for me.

Not everyone is cut out to foster dogs but many who think they couldn't do this would be surprised if they tried it. Once they get past that first foster and experience the rewards that come with helping a dog find a lifetime home, they may find themselves, like me, addicted to rescue. People often ask how I can take them, keep them then give them up. It's not always an easy thing, there are definitely dogs that I would love to have kept forever and I have thought about it but in the end, I remind myself that I "own" three dogs, Ducky, Scooter and Triki, who are very special to me. Each dog I let go has the opportunity to be the most special dog in someone else's life. Each of them deserves that experience and my heart is warmed by the knowledge I gave that chance to a dog.

Rescue does have downsides. Money is a big one. Pulling dogs, transporting them to foster homes, getting their vet needs met, all cost, often more than the adoption fee. You are unlikely to find a reputable rescue with more than a few dollars in the bank at any given time. This is why rescues seem to always have a fundraiser going, it's survival.

Another big problem, which can drive volunteers away, is our inability to save all the dogs in need. Eventually, every rescuer will feel the pain of having to pass on a dog that they know will be put to sleep without them. We need to remember the story of the little girl, throwing starfish back into the sea. When told it was no use, there were too many starfish on the beach for her to make a difference, her reply was, "Maybe not, but for that ONE, I made a difference". Like starfish on the beach, there are so many unwanted pets that have been thrown away by their owners. There is no way we are going to save them all, as long as irresponsible people continue letting their pets multiply, but we can save one, followed by one more, then one more. For each of those, we have made a difference. Consider rescuing, make a difference!

***Please be sure to include an e-mail address, so that we can send you an acknowledgement***

Send check or money order to:
Ratbone Rescues
P.O. Box 3237
Seminole, FL 33775-3237


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Tips on Introducing a New Dog to Your “Pack” (Part 1)

This summer, I’ve had a lot of in-home lessons with families who have recently adopted a new dog. When they call me, they have already had some trouble. So, I'm writing this article to help future dog adopters with bringing home a new pet.

Bringing a new dog into the family is an exciting time for the human family members, but can create stress for the dog family members. Understanding how to manage dog introductions can help ensure a lifetime of harmony for everyone.

General tips:

  • Set reasonable goals when you bring a new dog into your family. Knowing the dogs' backgrounds as to how well they were socialized will help you manage what might happen. As well as you think you know your resident dog, remember and respect that your resident dog may perceive the new dog to be encroaching on their established territory, which can be very stressful.
  • Proceed slowly and calmly. Slow-paced introductions may help prevent any fear-based or aggressive reactions from developing. If bad behaviors are not reined in from the start, they can become habit and be very hard to change in the future.
  • Never leave new pets unattended, even if a pet is crated. When two dogs meet, it is imperative you watch them at all times. The situation can change suddenly.
  • If you have more than one resident dog, introduce each dog one at a time to the new dog to prevent them from overwhelming the newcomer.
  • Stay in control of the introduction. If you are not sure how your dog will react, take the necessary precautions to keep him (and you) safe.
  • Be patient and adaptable. You will need to teach your new dog to trust you while communicating to your resident pets that you will continue to keep them safe. Building good relationships takes time.

Dog to Dog
Before you bring the new dog (or puppy) home, bring home his scent so your resident pets can be introduced to his smell first. Rub the new dog with a cloth or use a blanket he has slept on and bring it into your home and place it where he will be sleeping.

In addition, be sure both your resident dog and the new dog are up to date on their vaccinations to avoid any risk of infection.

Introduce in a Neutral Location
Ideally, introduce the dogs in a neutral location that is unfamiliar to both dogs, such as a park. This prevents your resident dog from feeling his territory is being threatened. Each dog should be on a loosely held six-foot leash and handled by a separate person. Try to stay relaxed so the dogs don’t pick up on any tension you might be feeling. Don’t force an interaction between the dogs. Just walk near each other for a few minutes. One or both of the dogs may ignore each other, which is fine. Just stay upbeat and give the dogs time to get comfortable with the situation.

Next, allow the dogs to sniff each other for just a few seconds, with the handlers offering high-pitched, happy praise if there are positive signs from the dogs. Then lead the dogs away from each other. Do several more sets of brief introductions, which prevent the dogs from focusing too hard and escalating to an aggressive response. Refocus each dog's attention with obedience commands or short walks.

There are two goals with this exercise: 1. To allow the dogs to meet and be tolerant of one another without exhibiting any bad behavior. 2. To keep the meetings pleasant and friendly so the dogs learn to associate good, relaxed things with being together Watch the dogs’ body language. Things are going well and you can proceed to the next step if you see:

  • Loose body movements and muscles
  • Relaxed open mouths
  • Play bows or other playful posturing

However, take caution if you see:

  • Stiff, slow body movements
  • Hair standing up on the back
  • Tensed mouth or teeth-baring
  • Growls
Prolonged staring If you see any of these types of reactions, quickly lead the dogs away from each other and try to get them to focus on you. Then you can try a very brief introduction again, at a further distance. Only proceed to the next step when you see the dogs are tolerating each other.

(Read Part 2 of this article in the November issue of The Ratbone Barker.)

Submitted by Terry Nickerson, Canine Behavior Therapist and owner of Bark Busters of Brevard. You can reach Terry at 1-977-500-BARK or visit her company's website at www.Barkbusters.com.


Freeze warning for tonight! Time to throw another dog under the covers.

GOOD NEWS! YOU could be the Ratbone supporter who will be spending cold nights this winter sleeping under the beautiful 2011 Ratbone Rescues Holiday Quilt. Just don't dally, the new owner will be selected before long so this quilt and the two pillows which will come with it will arrive at it's new home well before Christmas.

The pillows can be displayed either way, they have a holiday applique on one side and a pieced star on the other. The quilt even has a label on the back so you will always remember where it came from. Look at our little gallery here, then follow the link to learn more about the quilt and how you could make it yours.


Harriett and Crackers first came to Ratbone's attention when they were dumped in a Boise Idaho animal shelter by their puppy mill breeder. The animal shelter had never seen anything like these two American Hairless Rat Terriers and they called in a Xolo rescuer to help them. The Xolo rescuer took one look at these two little waifs and called Ratbone Rescues. Susan Cadell in Oregon was the closest person to these little dogs. They needed out of the shelter as they were cold and had gotten pneumonia. The Xolo rescuer pulled them and the two rescuers met halfway to transfer the little dogs.

It was apparent that Harriett and Crackers had never been out of a cage before. Harriet's toenails were an inch long and she had been bred repeatedly. Even though she was only about three years old, her skin was all stretched out. Crackers didn't like people much and felt compelled to let them know that! Both dogs were fearful and shy and grass confused them. Initially, the two dogs would huddle under a blanket in the kitchen with just their little faces peeking out. Being separated sent them into a panic.

Their foster mom immediately began treatment to get them healthy, started taking them on walks to build up their flabby muscles and worked on house breaking. It did not go well at first, Harriett would not go potty in the big bad outdoors and Crackers had to defend against every new smell and sound. Cars were terrible, big dogs were bad and a cat absolutely amazed him. He had no idea what to think about that! Then, all of a sudden, they seemed to get with the program. These two naked little guys started following the rest of the pack around the back yard. They learned how to sneak food off the dining room table, how to dig holes in the backyard and how to bump another dog off of a lap. They were slowly becoming dogs.

It was time to get them out in the world! Susan took them to work with her where everyone in the company was enchanted by them. Harriett and Crackers were shy at first, especially with the burly maintenance men, (Crackers bit one's pant leg) but soon the dogs and the maintenance men were playing together on the floor of Susan's office. The guys started eating their lunches in the office and feeding tiny bits to the dogs, who LOVED it.

The day Harriett and Crackers hit the website, Ratbones got an application from a very nice woman who was living in Guam. She had allergies and had wanted hairless dogs for years and this cute pair seemed perfect for her. Jessica wrote long letters to Ratbones all about her and her boyfriend and how she had tested herself with a friend's Hairless. She is an animal trainer at the aquarium on Guam and figured if she could train sharks, she ought to be able to handle two little dogs. Nervous about sending dogs so far from the United States, Ratbones very carefully scrutinized the applicant's qualifications, but Jessica looked like a wonderful adopter. Jessica was approved but for a dog to enter the country of Guam requires a 7 month quarentine. Luckily, the quarentine could be done at the foster mom's house, so Harriett and Crackers never had to be caged again. That 210 days was filled with lots of vet visits, tests and more time to go to the office with their foster mom. By now, almost everyone at the offic was coming over on breaks to visit the "naked dogs". They made many friends and got very spoiled. Eventually the day arrived when Harriett and Crackers went on the plane for their trip to their new home in Guam. The foster mom worried, Jessica worried, but the dogs landed safely.

Although Jessica and Jason were thrilled with how pretty and sweet their new dogs were, leaving their first real "home" set Harriett and Crackers back. Jessica and Jason had to woo them over. Gentle Harriett seemed to be attracted to quiet Jason and little outrageous Crackers soon won Jessica over with his outgoing, sassy nature. Jessica called Crackers her "tiny joy". Harriett, who had long since learned to pee on grass in Oregon, took exception to grass in Guam. Crackers immediately decided to be a guard dog and guard his new family from chiropractors and all other hazards, totally terrorized a well meaning house guest. Jessica and Susan wrote back and forth, working together to get these two settled in with their new family. Jessica became more of an alpha, Jason sewed little fleece leggings for Crackers, time went by and the dogs did better. Jessica and Jason never gave up on their spoiled little brats.

In the last letter from Jessica, she said: "Harriett is a gem. She finds whoever is sad and pins them down and licks them until they cheer up. She's figured out that I'll intervene with kids if they get too rough so she's very tolerant of them. We've been doing so well with our allergies that we've let them into the bed to sleep with us most nights. Crackers will curl up in a tiny ball wherever he won't be disturbed and go to sleep. Harriett travels around, goes for water, licks everyone, plays with toys, riles up Crackers for play fighting, burrows under blankets, scratches to get out, scratches to come back, checks the corners for monsters, etc etc. We did try to loan her to a lonely divorcing houseguest one night (so we could get some sleep too) and she did have hurt feelings---she spent all night outside our door and then moped ALL the next day. Won't be doing that again!

She has become super chill about everything except sudden loud noises and very new stuff. She went through a phase where she'd ask to go out and then not come over to get the harness on, but Justin and I colluded and I spritzed her until she went back to her normal patient self. We have worked on some tricks. Crackers came with a perfect "Dance" so we do that a lot in anxious situations. He's solid on sit now, but only on rugs, carpet, or other soft things--any time there is a risk of his naked little butt hitting cold tile floor he just looks incredulously at me when I ask for a sit. Harriett doesn't have sit yet but she does "Bow" for Justin."

Anytime an adopter takes on extreme cases like Harriett and Crackers, there is bound to be an adjustment period for all but this family is working it out and Harriett and Crackers have a wonderful new life with Jessica and Jason. I think Jessica said it best when she said "All in all they are making good progress and the real problem behavior has stopped, so I think we're good. Justin and I are both enjoying them a great deal and everyone that sees them loves them. I'm so glad I got these two!!"

Not bad for two little puppy mill dogs!


Ratbone Rescues is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Ratbone Rescues, Inc.
P.O. Box 3237
Seminole, FL 33775-3237
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