About Murph

Murph was born on the Red Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota with a badly deformed front leg. His mama and her litter were saved by Red Lake Rosie's Rescue after being abandoned when the puppies were just a week old. They were transported to All Dog Rescue in the Twin Cities, where mama and the rest of the litter were all adopted into wonderful forever homes. Murph had his leg amputated on 2/1/2017 and was formally adopted by his foster family after that. His mom is hoping to train him to be a therapy dog. Please adopt, don't shop!

Murph's mom Susan is the author of this blog. She's a bit smitten with her new boy :)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Thank you, Kindest Cut!!

Murph got his stitches out today, and he got to see Dr. Julinee Kratcha, the Kindest Cut surgeon who performed his amputation!  Dr. Kratcha (pictured above with Murph) did a wonderful job on his surgery - the nurses I know all raved about his beautiful incision :)  I can't thank Dr. Kratcha and the rest of the staff at Kindest Cut enough for all they do for not just Murph, but all of our All Dog Rescue dogs.  Kindest Cut (located at Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley) provides low-cost veterinary services for rescue groups as well as for families who meet income guidelines.  They do all of our spays and neuters as well as dental work and other surgeries like Murph's.  All Dog Rescue wouldn't be able to help as many dogs as we do without them.

Murph also got lots of attention from the techs who were on staff today - the picture above shows him with Ashley Parmenter, Amelia Jordan, and Sophie Cross.  Another picture of him with Sophie (who coordinated all of his visits, records, and extra meds) is below.  Thanks to all of them as well for the wonderful care and love they show every day!!

And with the stitches out, Murph also got all activity restrictions removed, so it was off to a trip to the dog park for the first time in 2 weeks!  It was icy and muddy but the weather was lovely, and Murph had a blast.  He did really well even on the ice - he slipped a couple of times, but so did all of the two-legged humans and most of the four-legged dogs.  He was so happy to be back at the off-leash park, and made sure to run up and greet every single person he saw.  We got in a few loops of the trail before he got tired, then we called it a day and now he's snoozing in his favorite spot by the front door.  It's been a long and emotional two weeks, but seeing how well he was walking, running, and playing today reinforced that he'll be better off in the long run without the flipper.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Recovering from Surgery

I promised a picture of Murphy's incision once it was healed enough that I didn't think it would bother anyone even if they have a squeamish stomach, and here it is.  This picture is from 9 days post-surgery, and I am amazed at how beautifully and quickly it has healed.  The vet did a fantastic job on his incision - the stitches will come out Monday, and hopefully he will have no more activity restrictions after that.  He's always been a good boy, so it really hasn't been too hard as he's very content to lie down and chew on toys and bones.  He does want to play, but it helps that his biggest playmate Duke is 12 years old so we can shut it down quickly and distract him with something else.  It would be really hard to manage if we had another young dog, but Murph's canine brothers are both seniors.

We had beautiful weather for February in MN yesterday which melted all of the ice off of the park trails, so we decided to take Murph for a short leash walk and get him a little fresh air and exercise.  This was the first real walk he's been on since the amputation and he did great!  He looked like he'd been walking with just three legs his whole life, which he kind of had since the flipper wasn't any good for walking, but I didn't know if having the leg gone would mean he'd have to learn how to manage completely differently.  He only lost his balance and fell once - there was a little lip on the concrete that he missed and he tripped on it.  I figure that kind of stuff is going to happen, and he handled it like a champ, just popped back up and continued on. 

It has been interesting watching our other dogs adjust to Murphy being part of our family.  We have fostered close to 100 dogs over the years, so Maks and Duke are VERY used to dogs coming and going.  But they seem to understand that Murph is staying, and they are actually a little jealous of him.  They have always loved me but they adore my husband; just about every dog who meets him falls madly in love with Dennis.  Murph actually prefers me, which is nice since I will be the one training with him.  Maks and Duke have suddenly become plastered to my sides any time I try to give Murph some love - "What about us, Mama?  We love you too!!"  It's very sweet, and I am enjoying them wanting some extra attention from me these days.  The only problem is three dogs and two hands, but we take turns and it all works out.

Here's a picture of Maks blocking Murph from getting close to me on the bed (pre-Murph, Maks virtually never jumped up on the bed with me):

Jealousy aside, they have accepted him as a part of their pack.  They have been very gentle around him as he recovers - dogs have tremendous empathy, which is one of the things I love so much about them.  They know when someone is hurting, and they do what they can to help make things better.  Here is a picture from January 2016, after my beloved Pomeranian Pip died unexpectedly and I was overwhelmed with grief.  My sweet, aloof Maks jumped up on the sofa, laid his head in my lap, and didn't leave my side:

And here is Duke, resting his head on his little playmate's back while Murph is healing:

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

North Star Therapy Animals

Last night I attended a new member orientation meeting of North Star Therapy Animals.  It will be a long time before Murph and I are ready to do therapy work as a team, so I joined as an individual member in the meantime.  Since this is something I have never done before, I wanted to get to know some people who have experience with training dogs for therapy work.  Even last night at the membership meeting I got a few great suggestions for specific places to use for socializing him - places with elevators, Home Depot (the woman who suggested that said once the dogs get used to the big carts lumbering around there, wheelchairs are nothing at all!), and the big art fests in Minneapolis where there are tons of people and chaos.  So I'm excited to have a few more specific places to take Murph once he's feeling better from his leg amputation.

I'm going to write a little bit about the organization now, but want to stress that I've been a member for less than 24 hours, so if any of the info below is wrong, that's all on me :) 

NSTA is an all-volunteer organization with this mission statement: "The mission of North Star Therapy Animals is to improve the lives of countless individuals throughout the Twin Cities area by providing high-quality therapy animal teams and services to a wide variety of facilities."  They also provide lots of information and resources for people thinking about doing therapy work with their dog as to how to get started, where to go, etc.  They currently have around 140 therapy animal teams and they work with dozens of facilities around the Twin Cities, such as hospitals, elder care, assisted-living, hospice, shelters, schools, libraries, and more. Most of their therapy animals are dogs, but there are some other animals - guinea pigs, cats, even a small pony!

Since I will be spending the next year (at least!) training Murph before we can get certified as a team, I'll be helping out in other areas for now.  One of the services NSTA provides is re-certification of therapy animals and their handlers - they work with an organization called Pet Partners, and one of the requirements for Pet Partner certification is that every animal and their handlers be re-evaluated every 2 years.  I think my contribution for now will be to help out at the re-evaluations, which I am really excited about.  Not only will I get to do a small part to help an organization that provides a great service, but I will also get to see exactly what Murph and I are going to need to learn during this year of training.

One thing I learned last night is there is a HUGE demand for therapy animal visits, many more than the current teams can cover, and more are being requested every day.  If your dog is friendly and patient and loves people, and you are looking for something meaningful to do, therapy work might be a great option for you.  You can read all about what is involved on their website: https://northstartherapyanimals.org/

Here's a quick update on Murph before I end: He's had a rough few days lately, but today he seems to finally be perking up a little.  He's 7 days post-amputation today, and he finally seems to be feeling good enough that we can try weaning him off of the pain meds.  His incision has healed beautifully.  It has definitely been a long week for all of us, but it feels like he may be over the worst of it now.  He has one more week of restricted activity ahead of him - my hope is that he feels so good he's bouncing off the walls for that whole week. Thanks to everyone for the prayers and good wishes for my sweet boy!!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Adoption Day!

Yesterday was a big day for all of us - we officially adopted Murph!  One of my rescue's strongest values is the importance of spay/neuter, so every single dog and puppy we adopt out is spayed or neutered  prior to adoption - including the ones we adopt ourselves as it is important to practice what you preach. The rest of Murph's litter was spayed/neutered almost a month ago, but we held off on Murph's so it could be done at the same time as his leg amputation since he'd already be under anesthesia.  We were going to adopt him right away on Wednesday, but his recovery has been a little more time-intensive and stressful than I was prepared for, so we didn't get around to the paperwork until yesterday.

As you can see, Murph got a new formal shirt with a collar for the occasion :)  He has to wear a shirt until his stitches are out to help protect the incision.  They don't bandage it in order for it to be exposed to air and heal more quickly, but we still need to do everything we can to keep it protected and clean.  He does look handsome in his new shirt, though!  Well, and a little dorky.  It's technically from the "Safari" series, but I think he looks like Magnum PI in it.  Or he would if he had a mustache - is there a Snapchat filter for that? 

His balance already seems to be better, and he still sleeps a lot - but he also wants to play so badly!  It's emotionally hard on mama to make him stop playing and lie down quietly to chew on toys, but he does settle quickly.  While the vets said the amputation is not a technically difficult surgery to do, it is still a very big surgery and the recovery can be hard.  I know this is the best thing for him long-term, but I will be grateful when he is feeling 100% again and can get back to playing like a regular puppy!

My perfect angel of a puppy turned into a naughty boy about 3 hours after we adopted him :)  The picture above shows him lying in his favorite place in the house - on the tile in front of the door, which is probably the coolest place he can find.  Problem is, that place is down a half flight of stairs, and he isn't supposed to be doing stairs yet. We had the stairs blocked off, and I thought it would be safe to leave the room for a few minutes - well, in that short time this smart boy figured out how to slip through the blockade and get down to his favorite spot.  Luckily he didn't fall or hurt the incision at all, and we let him stay down there and nap for a while since it really is his favorite place in the house for a snooze.  He is one smart and determined puppy!!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Surgery Day!

Murph's leg amputation was yesterday, and my plan was to post an update to this blog last night. Unfortunately, he had a much harder time last night than I was hoping for.  We picked him up around 4:30, and they warned us at the time that he was still very out of it from the anesthetic and in quite a bit of pain despite all of the meds they gave him.  I won't lie, I started bawling like a baby in the middle of the clinic when they handed him over and he cried out from the pain.  We got him home and tucked into a soft bed next to my husband, and I spent the rest of the evening trying not to fall apart as he cried out every time he moved.  By early evening he was eating and we were able to give him more pain meds, but overall he had a pretty tough time until around 2 AM when the anesthesia finally wore off and he was able to sleep more peacefully.  Needless to say, I didn't get around to writing a blog post last night!

Thankfully, this morning he was doing MUCH better.  He is eating like a champ and we are staying on top of his pain meds to keep him as comfortable as possible.  His incision is very long but looks wonderful - the vet at Kindest Cut who did the surgery did a great job on it.  I'll post a picture of it in a few days after it has healed a bit more - it's not too bad to look at, but it might be a bit much at this point for people who are squeamish about such things.

By afternoon, Murph was bored, which made me really, really happy - if he's feeling good enough to be bored, it's a good sign that he's on the mend :)  It is going to be a long couple of weeks, as his activity will be very restricted for the next 14 days.  He has to wear a shirt the whole time - they don't bandage the incision which will help it will heal faster, but he needs to wear the shirt to help keep it covered and clean.  He hasn't needed a cone yet, but I suspect that is coming so we are ready.

I'll end with one more picture - my caption for this one is: "When you're a husky and you like to lay on the tile by the front door where it is cool, but you're not allowed to do stairs and your mean old mama won't carry you down there..."

Monday, January 23, 2017

Puppy Socialization

If you follow this blog, you will be seeing lots of posts about us working on Murph's socialization in the coming months.  My firm belief is that training, exercise, and socialization will keep your puppy from developing the vast majority of serious behavior issues, both now and when he's older. If I could wave a magic wand and have everyone with a puppy do just one thing, it would be to thoroughly socialize their puppy.  (Well, and spay or neuter, but that's another post.)

What do I mean by socialization? Socialization refers to exposing your puppy to all sorts of people, places, other animals, noises, situations, sounds, smells, etc. in a safe and positive manner so they become familiar, normal, and non-threatening to your puppy. For example, when socializing him to other people, you want him to meet all kinds of people: big people, little people, kids of all ages, old people, people with loud booming voices, people with facial hair, people wearing hats, people carrying umbrellas, people wearing all sorts of different clothing styles, people with different skin tones, etc, etc, etc.  You want to bring him out to meet people in other places and also have people come to meet him in his home.

When working on socialization, make sure to plan and control the situations as much as possible to ensure every experience is a positive one.  Never force your puppy to interact before he is ready, but rather let him approach the new situation/person at his own pace.  If he's scared, stay calm and matter of fact - he's going to take his cues from you. Soft, stinky treats can help if he's nervous, especially if your puppy is highly food-motivated.  If he's really shy, you might want to consider a consult with a professional trainer to make sure you know how to help him gain confidence as he's experiencing new people and situations.

The picture above (it's a freeze-frame from a video, so forgive the quality) is from a formal, supervised puppy playgroup put on by Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley.  Playgroups like this are a great way to socialize your puppy to other dogs and a few people, and also to help him learn how to play appropriately with other puppies.  If you're new to puppies yourself, they'll also teach you how to recognize any red flags to look for when your puppy is playing with others.

It is important to work on socialization while your puppy is young. The early months are a time of tremendous development in all areas, so he will be especially receptive to this type of exercise at a young age.  He will grow up with confidence because the world isn't nearly as scary when you aren't constantly being bombarded with situations that are unfamiliar.  And it is far easier to introduce a puppy to new things in a positive way than it is to try to get a grown dog to overcome a fear later.  Prevention is always preferable trying to fix something down the road. And frankly, having a social dog could very well save his life someday.  Not only will he be less likely to become a fear-aggressive dog, but if something happens to you and you are no longer able to keep him, it will be very difficult to find a new home for him if he doesn't get along with people and other animals.  I've been immersed in rescue work for over a decade now - believe me, this is real stuff.  None of us ever wants to think we'd be unable to care for our beloved four-legged family members, but it is reassuring to know that as long as your dog is friendly and social, he's very likely to be adoptable if you become unable to care for him.

Since I hope to train Murph to be a therapy dog, my plan is to also socialize him while he's still very young to some of the different things he'll likely run across in that kind of work - wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, canes, little kids, older folks, persons with different disabilities. Even if we don't end up following that path, the great part about socializing your puppy is there are no downsides - it is fun to put in the time with your puppy while you are doing it, and you end up with a friendly, social dog for the rest of his life.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Visit to the Gym

Yesterday over lunch we ran up to the gym so my friend Anna could meet Murph (she works at my gym).  He gave her lots of snuggles and kisses, and got to meet a lot of the other trainers as well as a whole bunch of other people as they were coming or going from their workouts.  Murph is super social - he wants to greet every single person that he sees and get pets and kisses and snuggles and belly rubs. That is one of the traits that is good in a therapy dog - you want them to want to interact with people, not have to be coaxed into doing so.

One of the families that met Murph on their way out had two little tiny girls, maybe 1.5 and 3 years old.  They have a dog at home so are comfortable with them, and even the littlest girl wanted to pet Murph.  He started licking her fingers very gently - I kept a very close eye on that, since he still has his needle-sharp puppy teeth, but he was simply giving her very gentle kisses on her fingers.  I was incredibly impressed with his innate instinct to approach her gently - it certainly isn't anything I've taught him yet!  And I was equally impressed with how those little tiny girls interacted with him - their parents clearly are teaching them how to treat dogs gently and approach them correctly.  It was a 100% positive interaction for both puppy and kids. Win-win!