Friday, May 29, 2009

The story of Zip

This is Zip. We call her Zippy-Doo. She was brought into the animal shelter on April 28th on the end of the dog warden's pole. She had a rope tied around her neck.

For the first two weeks she was at the shelter, nobody could get close enough to even tell that she was, in fact, a she. She would growl and snarl and snap if you even looked at her. But the animal welfare director wanted to give her a chance because, what you can't tell from a picture, is that Zip is actually a very small dog. She is what I imagine happens when you put a German Shepherd on high/hot tumble dry. She just shrunk right on down. She so small, I could carry her out in my shoulder bag...if she would let me.

I was introduced to Zip Friday, May 15th. What follows are my entries from each day.

Friday, May 15
I overheard Sue talking about how she tried to get this dog out of the cage for a walk. It was apparently quite the ordeal. Everything she described about this dog, Zip, reminds me of our Milo. He was once terribly abused and his behavior reflected that. With time and love, he has turned into an amazing family pet. So, of course, I asked to meet Zip.

She hates me. She snarled and growled and snapped at my hand on the other side of the wire cage. Took Sam back to see if we could get any different reaction with a child. No luck. Even tried to bribe her with yummy soft treats. Less snapping, but still baring teeth and unpredictable reactions to movements.

She is so afraid. Her body just shakes uncontrollably. She's clearly lived through something very traumatic. I'm not sure she can be saved.

Saturday, May 16
Took Zip some doughnut munchkins. She wasn't too thrilled with them...or me. Still snarling and snapping. Decided to play her some soft music but I only have country on my phone...must work on that.

Went back to see Zip again...the munchkins had been eaten in my absence. She still seems to hate me. Took Sam and Steve to see her...she hates them too.

Monday, May 18
Went with Sam to see Zip right after school. Played her some Jim Brickman piano music. She seems better somehow even though she did snap at Sam one time. We won't stick our hands in the cage, that's for sure.

Sam and I talked about what the euphemism "put to sleep" means. He's decided he wants to work every day with Zip and me to try to "save her from being killed" (That boy...I love his big heart and his ability to cut through the BS).

Tuesday, May 19
No teeth at all today! A few small growls, but she was immediately soothed with sweet baby talk. The animal welfare director has agreed to get her on the vet schedule so we can bring her home and assess her behavior outside the shelter environment. I'm nervous. I want it to work, but I'm just not sure she's going to meet us halfway. I'm also doubting involving Sam in this. If it doesn't work, will his little heart be broken? He says he understands. But understanding and experiencing are two very different things.

Wednesday, May 20
Zip met us with tail wags and puppy-ish behavior! It was like a completely different dog! Sam and I are both thrilled! We got permission to open her cage door and I was even able to pet her head for a few pets. She approached us both and sniffed our hands. She's still obviously nervous and shrinks away when she sees a leash. I'm hopeful. I told Sam I was a little hopeful and he said, "Mommy, after today, you should be a LOT hopeful." He also told me he's glad we're doing this together. And even if Zip can't be saved, "she knows people care about her for at least a little bit."

Thursday, May 21
Someone asked the animal welfare director today, "What did you do to Zip?" She apparently greeted another shelter worker, Jennifer, with tail wags and a happy attitude today. That means it's working! She's making real progress!

We arrived late at the shelter and Zip was waiting for us with tail wags and puppy kisses! I'm still nervous around her. It's hard to shake that snarling snapping image in my brain from just a few short days ago. But she's doing her best to win me over, that's for sure. She actually took a step outside her cage toward me, sniffed my knee/leg/foot and seemed...I don't know...playful. I am very hopeful today. I would really like to get her out for a walk...I think it would do her some good. But I don't dare try the leash just yet.

Friday, May 22
Up to the shelter today. Zip actually tried to climb into our laps. I'm not sure if she really wants us or if she just wants OUT of that cage. Can't say that I blame her. If only I could get her to make a good association with the leash, rather the terrifying one she so obviously has. Every time we SHOW her a leash she shrinks back in terror.

We promised her some birthday cake from Sam's party tomorrow. Bet she'll like that.

Saturday, May 23
Dropped by the shelter after hours for just a few minutes today. Forgot the birthday cake but Zip seemed really happy to see us nonetheless. Still terrified of the leash. Working on desensitizing her to it, but not seeing much progress.

Sunday, May 24
Went by the shelter two hours after close, hoping to catch a quiet moment or two with Zip. I was hoping to introduce the leash during those first few moments so she wouldn't have time to react. She was wild to see us and we were able to pet her just like a normal pup. It was awesome! Then she saw the leash and shrank away, darn it.

I noticed her blanket was dirty, so I switched it out. Good and bad stuff came of that. The good: During the change-out, she tried to escape. I stopped her with a gentle hand and pushed her back in the cage. She didn't even growl. The bad: She did NOT like me entering her space and ran to the far corner and trembled. When she relaxed a little bit again I stepped one foot in the cage and she reverted back to the same scared posture cowering in the corner. I had to sit quietly for a few minutes outside the cage before she would even get up and lay down closer to me on the blanket. Even then, she kept her wary eyes on me.

I'm on a mission to find this little girl a rescue. She deserves a chance after the obviously crappy hand life has dealt her so far.

Monday, May 25
Only a little bit of time to visit with Zip today. But it was good. She seemed genuinely happy to see us and she let us both pet her all over.

Tuesday, May 26th
Zip loves birthday cake. Don't ask me how I know that.

I'm still working on desensitizing her to the leash. It's slow going, but today she didn't immediately run when she saw it. I was even able to lay it on her paw and the top of her head before she decided she'd had enough. I may just be able to get a leash on her by the end of this week if I'm lucky.

Oh...even more significant...I tried a little experiment and (with the door closed...just in case) had one of the shelter workers put her hand down by the cage. Where Zip would have snapped and snarled before, she wagged her tail and licked her hand through the cage wire! I swear, she's like a completely different dog.

It's so amazing to see the transformation of this little girl from the snarling mess she was just two short weeks ago. Now she wags her tail and demands attention like a normal puppy. In fact, I was sitting outside her cage with the door closed and wasn't paying enough attention and she jumped up on the inside of the cage and barked her little dog bark at me as if to say, "'re not paying enough attention to me...don't you know I'm adorable?" She has even tried a couple of times now to climb out of the cage and into Sam's lap. I think she just wants a good snuggle.

Shelter workers tell me she has a "different attitude...still timid...but not nasty anymore." That's what I like to hear!

Wednesday, May 27
I finally just lassoed her. She froze like a little statue for a minute or two and then walked over and gave me this look like, "Please get this thing off of me." When I put a hand on her chest/neck to keep her from leaving the cage, she coughs as if I've choked her. I know I'm not exerting any pressure at all, so I wonder if she wasn't injured at some point (she was found with a rope around her neck). Anyway...victory for today! I was able to get the leash on and off her three times without so much as a growl. Yay!

Thursday, May 28
You be the judge...

Friday, May 29
Well, today was our first step backwards. I knew it would happen, but now I'm worried. I was trying to put the leash over her head like I've been doing for the past couple of days. But this time she walked side to side to avoid me as best she could. At one point she turned her head and snipped my direction. She didn't try to get me at all...but it was clearly a warning to knock it off. So I gave her a break for a few minutes and then tried again (I didn't want her to think she had won alpha status)...and had no problems.

But she's set for the vet schedule tomorrow morning and he has a policy of not dealing with "aggressive" animals. I KNOW she's not aggressive in the traditional sense...she's just scared and she needs to get out of there. And she can get out of there and come home with us if she just behaves herself. But none of that is going to impress him, I'm sure. He's dealt with shelter animals and he knows the's just going to be a matter of how willing he is to work with her...and I fear he will just decide she's not worth the effort.

*sigh* I hate that there is NOTHING I can do. They won't let me come up before...only after. Keep your fingers crossed for Zip.

Saturday, May 30
Yeah...exactly what I feared. You know...I know these people are good why do they have to fall into the "I know what I'm doing and I don't have to listen to you" trap? The only ones who pay for it are the animals.

They went into Zip's cage with leashes and tried to walk her to the surgery suite. She nearly bit the vet tech and the vet.

So I laid it at the animal welfare directors feet. Her call. If she labeled Zip aggressive I would abide by that...I disagreed...but I would abide by it. I explained that I was not questioning anyone's professional judgment...only advocating for Zip because I believe she's gotten a raw deal and has been terribly treated by humans. I also believe she has the capacity to change. Maybe it will take time...but I've seen her make small steps already in the short time we've been working together and I truly believe she can be a good dog if given a chance (out of the shelter). I said I was disappointed that Zip was allowed to languish in the shelter for more than a month if they were just going to apply the standard "aggressiveness policy" to her. Maybe it wasn't fair, but I guilted the woman into releasing Zip to foster here at home!

Now before anyone gasps and shakes their head worrying...we have baby gates and safety protocol already in place for fostering dogs. This is something we've done in the past (and done well, if I do say so myself). I'm not expecting miracles (hoping maybe)...and I understand that it may very well end up that Zip is just aggressive and unadoptable and will end up being euthanized for everyone's safety...but for now I'm excited to try. First step...getting her into a crate to get her home. This is going to be a challenge.

In other exciting developments...Zip ate crunchy kibble while I sat near her and touched her. Not even a growl!


bir said...

Ooooh Thankyou for sharing that story - I'm proud of you. Good work and good luck continuing! x

The Nanny said...

This is amazing, really. What you're doing is absolutely amazing. Please, please keep us posted. Sweet Zip, I wish there were something I could do.

KB said...

How awesome!!! Here's hoping & praying everything works out for Zip, although I suspect with people like you & Sam to love & work with her, she'll be fine!

Cass said...

Wow...what an amazing story! What an amazing person you are too! Sweet Zip....what an adorable little face ~ I wish that I could get some puppy dog kisses from her :)
Can't wait to hear more about her!

Kathy McC said...

It breaks my heart into a million pieces when I think about how cruel people can be. I am so glad Zip is responding to you and Sam. She sounds like a wonderful dog.

JMB said...

Congrats on the progress! I've got a thing for shepherds (it's that light of intelligence in their eyes, I think), so it's wonderful to see her coming around. And Sam, oh Sam. What an awesome kid-and what a way to teach empathy. He doesn't seem to need a whole lot by way of lesson, but it's great that you are able to involve him in this story.

MB said...

You are amazing. Zip is a doll. You keep at it and update us on her progress.

Sherri said...

What a great story - so much progress in such a short time. I admire your perserverance and determination, and I LOVE that Sam gets to participate in this with you and is really into it. I can't wait to read more!

kp said...

How heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. I hope you get to bring her home.

KB said...

This whole story brings tears to my eyes. I'm so glad Zip has you!

Best of luck to you all - and I hope you will continue with the updates!