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, 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!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Pre-Surgical Appointment

Today we met with the vet at Kindest Cut who will be amputating Murph's withered leg (I call it his flipper).  He did great at the vet and made about a million new friends among the other patients and the staff at the clinic.  He is healthy and everything is good to go for the amputation, which has been scheduled for 2/1.  Then we went for a nice long romp at the dog park where he made about a million more new friends.  Murph is one popular boy!

I've had a lot of people ask me why we are amputating his leg and/or if we have to do it.  There are several reasons as to why we ultimately decided to do it, including:
  • The flipper really messes with his balance, and amputation should make that much better.
  • He gets really frustrated because he wants to use the leg - he'll shake it and shake it and shake it to try to get it to do what he wants.  
  • Because the top part of the leg works, he thinks he has support when he doesn't.  The best example of this is that he will jump off of something and put his legs out to catch himself, but the one isn't actually there even though it feels like it is working, so he face-plants when he lands.  
  • He is developing a callous where the foot bends at a 90-degree angle (see picture below), but it isn't a nice and protective callous.  It's the kind of "callous" that is going to break open and get infected a lot.
There are a few other reasons, but those are the biggies. The surgery itself is pretty straight-forward and recovery is usually very fast.  Then he can start learning how to walk and run and play without that darn flipper throwing him off balance all the time!

Introducing Murph's Blog

I'm close to a month late getting this blog started, but on 12/20/2016 when this picture was taken we had no idea we'd be adopting this adorable boy.  This was my first time meeting Murph - he was moving to our home from the foster home that had cared for him with the rest of his litter.  The plan was for us to foster him until he had surgery to amputate his disabled leg, see him through his recovery, and then find him his forever home. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to that place - we fell in love and the rest is history.

So for a while this blog will include both current posts and some historical ones catching us up to this point.