Category Archives: Remington & Pax



I’ve said many times that I’m not sure who rescued whom when we came home with Remy, then nine months later with Pax. Our lives were great before them, but they’re wonderful now. Somehow, pets fill a void that some folks don’t even know existed. I thought we were doing OK after Rousseau passed away. His death hit us both so hard, there were a few days afterwards that we both thought we could never love another dog. Boy, am I glad we were wrong. We had to “rescue” some more.

It breaks my heart to see dogs and cats languishing in shelters. Irresponsible breeding is at Duggar family levels.


In the Aussie community, there are shameful, unscrupulous people who like the way mostly-white Australian Shepherds look (and sell), so they deliberately breed merles to merles — something so dangerous and cruel, I can’t believe it’s not a punishable crime. These often blind and deaf puppies (if they survive at all) routinely end up in shelters, or fostered by good people willing to take on a severely impaired dog and give him the best life possible — while otherwise healthy but abandoned animals wait for death at the pound. So sad.

So let me do this PSA today, although I know I’m preaching to the choir. Skip the breeders and adopt. There are even plenty of purebred dogs available (not sure about cats, but I’d wager it’s the same with them). Then there are angels like the cat breeders in the Netherlands who gave two of their beautiful purebred ragdolls to RtB fiend Suzanne, after she lost her longtime companion, Chevy. Kind people are everywhere; not just at the shelters and foster homes. The ones who are in it for the animals as opposed to the profits are the ones to seek out.

What’s truly sad are owners who simply didn’t know what they were getting into, or decided that while their puppy was cute and the breed was popular, the workload wasn’t what they expected or wanted when the dog got older. So…off to the shelter they go. Unbelievable how disposable animals are to some people. And these are the pets who wait; wait to die.


I know there are extenuating circumstances in life (indeed, one of those exceptions brought us Rousseau), but speaking generally, there exists no situation in which I would ever give up my dogs. Not for anything. If a potential new apartment didn’t allow pets, I’d keep looking. If my dogs had a behavior problem, I’d do whatever was necessary to mitigate it. If we moved far away and I couldn’t take them in my vehicle, I’d arrange to get them there via professional pet transport. You don’t leave town and deposit a family member at the dog pound, or worse — the side of the road, which, sadly, happens all too often.

I think sometimes that people leave it too late to do anything but give up. For example, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone say, “We had to give him up because he kept having accidents in the house,” or “she wouldn’t stop chewing on stuff,” as if the accidents and the chewing were the dog’s fault. Again, there are exceptions (aggression towards babies, traumatic incident that results in vicious behavior, etc.), but in general, people are the reason dogs fail at being good citizens, and society has made it all too easy for folks to just deposit pets at the shelter like so much recycling.

At this writing, we’ve had Remy for 18 months, and the training is ongoing for a dog with such enormous fear issues, I seriously considered looking into behavioral therapy with a lady in Akron. But he’s slowly improving. I’d say he’s had one major breakthrough behaviorally in the last year and a half. We’re taking that as a huge victory. Since Aussies generally live 13-16 years, we have some time.

So, what got me on this tangent this morning? It was actually a beautiful thing. I read a poem yesterday noon, while eating my lunch. After bawling through my watermelon, I saved the text and decided to write about the subject today.

Of course, you can substitute “cat” for “dog” in this. Read and weep…then go hug a pet.


The Reason 

I would’ve died that day if not for you.
I would’ve given up on life if not for your kind eyes.
I would’ve used my teeth in fear if not for your gentle hands.
I would have left this life believing that all humans don’t care
Believing there is no such thing as fur that isn’t matted
skin that isn’t flea bitten
good food and enough of it
beds to sleep on
someone to love me
to show me I deserve love just because I exist.
Your kind eyes, your loving smile, your gentle hands
Your big heart saved me…

You saved me from the terror of the pound,
Soothing away the memories of my old life.
You have taught me what it means to be loved.
I have seen you do the same for other dogs like me.
I have heard you ask yourself in times of despair
Why you do it
When there is no more money, no more room, no more homes
You open your heart a little bigger, stretch the money a little tighter
Make just a little more room, to save one more like me.
I tell you with the gratitude and love that shines in my eyes
In the best way I know how
Reminding you of why you go on trying.

I am the reason
The dogs before me are the reason
As are the ones who come after.
Our lives would’ve been wasted, our love never given;
We would die if not for you.

–Julie Ashleigh

In praise of Aussies


Not the people from Australia (though I’m certain they’re lovely), but rather it’s the Australian Shepherd that gets the press today.

A blue merle puppy

Aussies aren’t really from Australia. They’re American dogs with a murky history involving their association with Basque shepherds who emigrated from Australia to the West Coast during the 19th century. According to the American Kennel Club, they’ve gone by many names: Spanish Shepherd, Pastor Dog, Bob-Tail, Blue Heeler, New Mexican Shepherd, and California Shepherd.

People who love dogs often zero in on one type or breed. Lap dogs, big dogs, shepherd dogs, terriers, retrievers — there are as many reasons for a particular affinity for one pooch as there are pooches in the wide world. I don’t know why we’ve gravitated to the Aussie, but we definitely love their faces, their silky coats, and their silly, quirky ways. In fact, we want more than the two we have, and that could cause some issues down the road. We’re hemmed in where we are, and the house is barely big enough for the four of us. This will take some thought.

Here's a red bi-color, identical to our Pax.

Here’s a red bi-color, identical to our Pax. (Pax has also been called a red tri and a red dilute.)

Aussies come in 16 colors. Lucy here is a red merle, who's totally white on her top half.

Aussies come in 16 colors. Lucy here is a red merle who’s totally white on her top half.

As members of the herding group, Aussies are extremely alert, intelligent, loyal, and work-oriented. Unlike pups who just want to lie around and be spoiled, Aussies need a job to keep their brains engaged. The dog park for our boys is essential to their sensory workout requirements. They need to run, run, run, every day. Run, sniff, discover, warn, chuck each other, and bark, bark, bark. They love the dog park for this, and we love the fact that they come back exhausted and ready to settle down. They know the drill very well.

The breed has some striking characteristics, not limited to the famous crystal blue eyes. (Both of ours have brown eyes, which we like.) Most popular is the “Aussie smile,” a whimsical mouth-shape phenomenon that delights owners and makes for great photographs. Other fun — although maybe not exclusively Aussie — mannerisms include lying down with crossed front paws and taking complete naps on their backs.

So why do we love Aussies? Well, speaking for myself, I love their coats, their cute faces, their playful nature, the way they “talk” to you, their cuddly behavior, and their overall striking beauty. They turn heads every time we take them out on a walk.

Our boys.

Our boys, taking a breather at the dog park.

We’ve talked about adopting a black tri-color when the time is right (meaning when we get another house on more land). Until then, we’ll enjoy Remy and Pax in their natural habitat: our hearts.

In other news: Mama Fink is done with school for the next two weeks. Time to celebrate around here with family and friends, and by taking on a boarder for the weekend. Oliver is coming to visit, which will likely delight Pax, but send Remy into a tailspin. I’m tellin’ ya, it’s a non-stop party here at the Fink house. ;-)

Happy weekend, fiends!


…yeah, you knew it was coming. :-D

Those of you who are my Facebook friends saw the picture of our new pup yesterday, but for those who aren’t, let’s give it up for Pax, who just upped the ante for the canine team at our house.



We’ve had a longstanding love for Australian Shepherds, the rock stars of the herding breeds. We adore their intelligence, energy, beauty and loyalty. While Rousseau was an Australian Shepherd/Springer Spaniel  hybrid (here is a completely cool black & white variation of his breed), he favored the Aussie look.

Some interesting facts, if you’re in the mood:

1. Australian Shepherds do not come from Australia. They were likely brought to Australian sheep farms from either Spain or Germany. How exactly they were bred into their current form is unknown.

2. Aussies come in 16 color variants. Here’s a basic chart.

3. They are particularly prone to hip dysplasia and deafness.

4. The Aussie’s closest relative is the Scottish Collie

Six-year-old Pax’s owner passed away, and since no family could/would take him, he was remanded to the local shelter. We don’t know how long he languished there (long enough for them to shear off all his matted fur), but he had recently been taken into foster care by a woman who owned two other Aussies. She told us that he appeared depressed, and showed no interest in eating, no matter what she did to coax him. He was not thriving.

Enter the Thriller, who sent me an Aussie rescue link on 11 August, saying “Looky here…” Three days later, we brought Pax home.

He's about 7-8 lbs. underweight. His hipbones stick out like doorknobs, and his spine reminds me of a razorback hog.

He’s about 7-10 lbs. underweight. His hipbones stick out like doorknobs, and you can easily count the vertebrae in his spine.

The good news is that he’s taken to his new diet (Blue Buffalo with a spoonful of pumpkin puree, twice a day) like a duck to water. He’s eating like a pig. I’m noticing he takes extra care with his hip joints when lying down or getting up; this could be arthritic behavior, or it could be that he’s just skin and bone back there, and lying down hurts after a while. I hope it’s the latter. We have yet to get him in to see the vet for the full Monty check-up.

Last night, we had some moderate-to-slightly-serious “play” fights between Pax and Remy. This morning, we’ve had three play sessions between them, and so far, no flip-outs or ceremonial Dominance Dancing.

I luv u, u luv me

i luv u, u luv me

I’ve done one training session with Pax, and he’s another little smarty. He already knew how to sit and lie down, but “stay” was a new concept altogether. When we would go to take Remy out, Pax would have his nose right at the screen door, ready to bolt. He learned the “stay” command in no time. I think we’re on the way to being a family here.

Again, thanks for your concern over the past few days, and all your messages of encouragement. It means the world!


Remington. Ever watchful for the next thing that's going to frighten him.

Remington: ever watchful for the next thing that’s going to frighten him.

Yep, I had one.

If you live with a fearful dog, you know that life is not normal, or at least what other dog owners might consider normal. Visits from family and friends are adventures in abject terror. There’s no showing off your incredibly intelligent, good-natured, pretty pup to adoring friends and family who want nothing more than to get to know him. There are no tricks performed, because it’s difficult to get him to demonstrate “shake,” “lie down” or “Bang!” (play dead) when he’s hiding where he feels most secure: in the Thriller’s office downstairs, behind the couch, and under my desk or the coffee table.

I should say at this point that we have indeed made progress with Remy over the last eight months. Negligible progress, but progress all the same. Bob, Seamus and Helen have come over to help us with the “stranger danger” issue, all with encouraging degrees of success. Still, we know the mountain is high, and truthfully, we may never reach the summit. According to the vast amount of research we’ve done through buying several books, watching countless training videos, consulting dozens of websites, having him evaluated by someone who specializes in dog behavior, and purchasing hundreds of dollars worth of training products, it is possible he will always be this way. We are crazy about him regardless, but it isn’t easy sometimes.

This morning was not easy.

While Remy loves the park (both the dog park and the public park near our home), he is completely terrified of walking on the sidewalk. To go to the city park, located under a half mile away, we must transport him by car.

On the advice of popular dog trainer Zack George, I decided to introduce Remy to sidewalk training by desensitization: putting him in an uncomfortable situation for small bits of time, until he no longer fears it. This was to be done by leashing him and taking him to sit in the front yard, near the sidewalk. Sitting calmly for a few seconds earns him a piece of jerky, his favorite treat. After sitting for a few moments, walking a few feet of sidewalk is introduced, and so on, until more distance is added to the walk. The goal is to desensitize him to the sidewalk and all its accompanying distractions and noises.

I took Remy out on his park leash, and sat him down at the end of the front walk. So far, so good. I treated and praised him, and repeated the action four times. Then, I started towards our driveway — a total distance of about 15 feet. That’s when he went berserk.

He began pulling and running, darting (crouched low with his tail plastered down) every which way at random, circling me so I had to jump in order to avoid being tangled up and tripped — just trying to escape. He appeared to forget where the front door was; he pulled me so hard the opposite way (away from the house), that with all my might I could not stop to bring him to a sit (incredible how much power a 55-lb. animal can generate). He didn’t care that he was at this point gasping and choking, or that I was trying, in my calmest voice, to bring him back to me, or that he could smell the jerky in the pouch hanging from my belt. I had to lean away from him and pull as hard as I could, because he was beginning to drag me towards the street. This beautiful, smart dog had completely lost his mind.

With only overstretched biceps and a small cut on my finger reopened as damage, I finally got him back to the front steps. Once he recognized the door, he made a beeline for it. Inside, I unhooked him and he ran for the space under my desk like he’d been shot out of a cannon. I sat down on the floor next to him, cradled his head in my hands, and broke down in tears.

By the time the Thriller came home from his doctor appointment, both Remy and I had calmed down, but when I tried to tell him what happened, I started bawling again. As is his pattern, he began to devise a solution to the problem. Using a special leash we bought a couple months ago that’s designed to offer comfort to anxious dogs, he tried the experiment again, walking Remy on the sidewalk just in front of the house. A couple of times, he began to really pull. At that point, the harness’s “squeezing” compression motion kicked in, and it slowed him down long enough for him to respond to a “sit” command and have a piece of jerky. He repeated this about nine or ten times in front of the house, then brought Remy in. He made the same dash for my desk, but he didn’t seem as distressed as before. In fact, he unwound from his curled-up, defensive position and had a peaceful nap.

I know that patience is key, and overall, we try to exercise that virtue with Remy every day, because you can’t reverse the fallout of whatever happened to him in just a few short months — if ever. We will continue to make his healing a priority because we love him and he deserves it. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t much more than we’d bargained for initially, but I have to believe Remy “found” us for a reason, and we owe it to him to give him our best every day, in spite of his fears and hangups.

Of course, that’s not to say that Mama won’t have the occasional meltdown herself. :-)

Cue Alice Cooper.

Happy, happy. Another school year in the books. And you know what my first thought was? I need to plan out my summer to get as much work done as possible. I should be either stoked or filled with dread. I think I feel a little of both.

I did the ceremonial canceling of the alarm last night before I hit the hay, around 11:00. Slept in till 5:30. Score.

Tonight, we take our sweet Remy to a dog trainer for evaluation. She told the Thriller that it’s more than likely going to just take a metric ton of patience to help him get over his all-consuming fear of absolutely everything (people, other animals, strange noises, thunder, someone dropping a fork on the floor, the occasional raised voice, mirrors, Frisbees, the sidewalk, cars, the Thriller’s recliner, etc.). She will also evaluate the benefits of any possible training exercises. We tried that once, and it was a dismal failure because Remy was so scared of the teacher, he just collapsed on the floor and wouldn’t move.

Strangely though, he’s totally fine with Dusty and Oliver, Seamus’s dogs. No fear at all. While he’s definitely a “follower,” he doesn’t run and hide from them, or stand and bark wildly at them, which he does with every other animal he encounters. Good thing, too, as we’re hosting the dynamic doggie duo for a week in July. I think that’ll be really good for Remy, actually.

I tend to get impatient, which is dead wrong. We’ve had him for only five months; I can’t expect him to change two years’ worth of ingrained behaviors in that short a time span. I sure would like to know who — at the very least — threw him in a cage and left him there, with obviously no human touch or animal interaction. Truly, it broke my heart when this trainer told us that it sounds like he has absolutely no self-esteem. He thinks he’s worthless.

On the contrary, we think he’s fantastic, which makes us all the more sad that he’s struggling so much with life in general. He has nothing but love all around him; he deserves to enjoy it. But Mama Fink needs to be more patient.

At least I have time for patience now. :-D