Saturday, March 31, 2012

Melia's People

After knowing Melia for a few weeks, I've gotten a pretty good grip on her personality.

Every dog (and human) prioritizes things differently.  Some dogs clearly put food before all else.  Other dogs put play above all else.  There are not usually Goldens!  Melia has a golden heart.  She values her people above all else in this world. 

When we first picked Melia up, Carol said she wasn't that motivate by food.  At the gas station in Winchester where we met Carol, Melia took no interest in the cookies I brought for her.  The first night with us, she needed coaxing to eat her food-- a dry dog food for "sensitive stomachs" (she was finishing a course of antibiotics) and a little yogurt mixed in.  She has changed her tune when it comes to food! 

Nowadays, she gets a mixture of homemade food, her sensitive stomach dry food and a little yogurt or cottage cheese.  She starts anticipating food as soon as she sees us vertical in the morning or when we walk in the door in the evening.  Her "position" is to sprawl on the floor in the spot where she gets her food.  Once she's sprawled, her eyes follow your every movement in the kitchen as if you are her prey!  If we don't progress to feeding her soon enough, she'll let out a few whimpers to remind us she's there.  As soon as you move to fill the bowl-- a soop of that, a little of this and a spoonful of that... she gets super-excited.  This morning, she reared up on her hind legs with excitement and stood there like a little biped.  Her tail wags out of control and as soon as we start to put her bowl down, her nose is there to greet it.  I call her "Mommy's Little Piggy" because it reminds me of the scene in "A Christmas Story" when the brother of Ralphie eats his mashed potatoes and meatloaf.  Her whole snout is involved with every meal!  On more than one occasion, she's come to us afterward with a few curds of cottage cheese on her nose. 

So, naturally, I thought Melia was a foodie and valued food above all else.  Until this morning.

I was reading in bed this morning when Melia came to the side of my bed for a few pets.  How can I possibly read a book with those super soft ears and those soulful eyes looking up at me.  So, I scoot to the edge of the bed and have one arm wrapped around her back, scratching her belly and the other hand is caressing her soft ears and scratching her chin.  She is in heaven and slowly slumps to the floor in a pile of limp puppy as I continue to pet and scratch her.

From the kitchen, I hear Kirk dishing up her breakfast.  She hears too...  I see her eyebrows flicker a little and she strains her head slightly to the kitchen for a moment.  But she doesn't move.  If anything, she inches a little bit closer to the edge of the bed and looks up at me with adoring eyes, as if to say-- "I choose you."  We snuggled for a few minutes longer before I encouraged her to go get her breakfast before the other beast, Toby, beat her to it.   

Clearly, the Golden Retriever genes dominate.  She values her people above food and all else.  In Melia's world of priorities, food is a distant second, followed by other dogs (Toby) and toys. 

If you're interested in adopting Melia, please complete an adoption application at Almost Heaven Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Melia's Adoration

Melia loves me.  She loves Kirk.  She loves Toby and she would certainly love you.  There's no question about it.  At this moment, she is curled in a ball at my feet.  Her head is actually resting on my feet as she curled up next to me.  A tell-"tail" sign that she loves you is that her tail thumps wildly until the moment you touch her.  Then her tail rests.  But if you stop-- thump, thump, thump.  It's a strong tail, but feathered like a golden's tail.

Last night, I woke to a steady rumble in the middle of the night.  It was Melia snoring at the foot of the bed!   

So far the only thing Melia seems to fear is Kirk or I being mad at her.  She passed the thunderstorm test and can face the crackle of the fireplace with bravado.  The other night some wicked thunderstorms rolled over the house.  Toby snuggled in closer to me and slept in the crook behind my knees.  He whined a little and was only settled when I reached down to pet him.  Melia, on the other hand was dead to the world.  Her whining didn't start until we started slapping the snooze button.  And on cold evenings (the few we've had lately) we have a fire in the fireplace.  Toby hides from the crackles and pops in the bedroom, but the pops don't seem to phase Melia.  However, if I give her a sharp "no, Melia" when she puts her nose in Toby's food bowl, she'll immediately retreat or come to my feet with the most pathetic and remorseful look a puppy can have!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Melia with kids

These are photos of Melia in action chasing Toby around the yard.  She's not the most graceful creature on the run, but she's darn cute.  We were curious when our friends came over last weekend for a little outdoor cookout.  Our friends have three daughters:  9 years, 6 years and almost 2 years.  The girls have grown up with Toby in their lives.  Before they came over, we warned them that we didn't know what Melia's history with children was, but she's a little skittish with new people.  We made sure they understood that she maybe be very playful with Toby, but she may not want to play with them.  I was very curious to see how Melia would react to the kids...

She started off the day by hanging close to us.  It took her a few minutes to warm up to the new group of people.  It wasn't long before she was submissively throwing herself at the kids' feet and happily being petted.  True to herself, she wasn't very playful with the kids.  She wandered amongst us and found found a spot on the ground not to far from the fire pit to be near enough to us to know she wasn't missing out on any fun.  After awhile she trotted back in the house and took her spot on a snuggle bed.  I think the activity (we're a pretty mellow group-- including the kids) was a bit much for her and she just needed to excuse herself to find a quiet spot.  The kids would go in and check on her on occasion and she would follow them out to the yard-- as if her curiosity (or the smell of hot dogs) would overwhelm her insecurity and she just HAD to see what was going on.  

All in all, it was a great day.  Melia got along well with everyone and happily received pets from everyone in spite of their age or size.  She showed no sign of aggression with the kids, and her tail thumped wildly when, at the end of the day, I found the two older daughters and their mom snuggled up with Melia in her dog bed.  They were scheming on how to convince Dad to let them bring her home!   

Although Melia passed the kid test with flying colors and no aggression, she may be best suited in a smaller household that is settled into a routine.  I think she would be happiest with a small number of people (and dogs) who show consistent and predictable behavior towards her.  She loves having Toby to keep her company and to play with, and she's fascinated by the miniature schnauzer that lives next door.  They meet at the fence, nose to nose, and I can tell Melia is just dying to play with her.  However, there's another dog on the other side of the house that barks wildly and aggressively at her and she'll cower at my side even with the safety of the fence to divide them. 

If you're interested in adopting Melia, please contact Almost Heaven Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary at

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Melia's Gaining Confidence

We've let Melia roam free during the day and overnight this week.  So far... no issues!  At night, she's been sleeping on the dog bed in the bedroom.  When we start moving around in the morning, Melia will start circling around the bed, letting out her signature whimper with a mighty strong tail thump.  On a couple occasions she has jumped up on the bed, but we've been nipping that one in the bud.  I think she's learning that beds are off limits.

We've also started obedience training.  She is so eager to please that she sits automatically, without any command, at your feet.  She eagerly takes her cookie, but will walk a few feet away to eat it in private-- thus, the treat consumption probably isn't associated with the command.  I'll have to work on this... maybe smaller, better, easier to chew treats.

Also, I learned today that Melia LOVES to be brushed.  I started brushing her and she stopped, dead in her tracks, mid-stride and stood there until I finished.  Her coat is kind of like a lab's coat--it's a little more coarse than Toby's and not nearly as much hair as a typical Golden.  The good thing is, she's not much of a shedder. 

She's also gaining a little independence.  She's still a velcro dog that is eager to please who is looking for her two legged soul mate.  If you're interested in adopting Melia, please complete an adoption application at

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tripper has a forever home!!!!!

          Tripper has a forever home. He looked so at home on our front porch that we have decided he will spend his retirement with us. While I will have to suspend fostering for a while, I am very happy to have Tripper as part of our family now. I hope all that have followed his blog will keep in mind how rewarding fostering can be and it gives a dog a better chance of being adopted. I have probably fostered about 15 dogs in the past few years and they are all very special in my heart. I have become friends with many of their adopted families.

God bless Almost Heaven for all the dogs they have rescued over the years.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Learning the Ropes

Since we're new at fostering, we can't help but draw comparisons between Doji and Melia-- our only two foster dogs so far.  Doji was a more mature golden who was convalescing from surgery and had a long-time injury to her hip.  It was apparent that she had been quite loved in a home at one point in time.  Doji loved attention, but was secure enough to just hang out with you.  Melia, as we're finding out, is much more puppy-ish and insecure about affection. 

Melia is quite playful.  As each day passes, we see more and more of this.  She does the nip and flop with Toby whenever the mood strikes.  She also will self-entertain with his plush toys and has to be monitored. Melia has yet to destroy a toy, but I can see the glimmer of joy in her eye as she starts to pluck the toy's "fur".  She hasn't performed any of the typical puppy-isms-- like destroy furniture, have accidents in the house or be mischievous (yet). 

The difference between her interaction with Toby and us is severe.  With Toby, she throws puppy caution to the wind and plays to her heart's content (or Toby's tolerance).  With us, there's no playing.  She has real security issues with people.  If I move suddenly to play with her-- like you would with most puppies, she immediately lays down (flops) in a submissive state.  She much prefers to keep our relationship one of affection.  Whereas Doji would wag her tail and insist on affection, Melia really begs for it in a very submissive and unassuming way.  It's hard to explain, but if she's contently laying in her snuggle bed and you say something that she interprets to be directed towards her (usually with a soothing voice), she'll hop up, immediately walk over to you, perhaps rest her head on your knee, give a little whimper and hope that you'll pet her lovely ears or scratch her chin.  If I'm on the floor giving Toby pets, she'll nose her way in between, and even lay down on Toby if he's in the way of her getting some affection.  At one point yesterday, she was resting her head on my leg, Toby was resting his head on her chest and I was petting If you stop petting her for a second, she'll either give a little whimper to remind you she's there or nose at your hand a little.  When you get up and walk away... she'll follow you just in case you change her mind.  She is so willing to please you for affection-- a great trait when it comes to her obedience training.  Now that she's almost sure she has a name and that it's Melia, she eagerly comes when she's called (or when she's not called and you just mention her name or look in her direction).  

It breaks my heart to think of how her interaction with people has made her so submissive.   

We left her to roam free in the house last night to see what she would do.  She came into my room a couple times, but I think she slept in her open crate.  No signs of getting into trouble this morning!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Good Life

It's obvious to us that Melia hasn't spent a heck of a lot of time as a family dog.  She doesn't know commands (sit, shake, stay) or language (no, bath, walk, run, out) yet, but she's getting better responding to her name, "come" and "out", and she seems to be pretty well crate-trained.  We've found her hanging out in her crate during the day (as if on cue, she just gave up a bone in the snuggle bed and trotted into to her crate for a little snooze).  On Monday, her first day in the house alone with Toby, we put her in the crate when we left for work.  I came home early to check on her and she had managed to get out of the crate.  But strangely enough, there was a little rug wadded up in her crate.  It's a mystery.  I figure she managed to get the crate open, explored the house, got her toenail caught on one of the little kitchen rugs and drug it back into her crate.  Her toenail wasn't damaged or bleeding, but there were some snags on the rug.

The next day, I used a clip to make sure she couldn't get out of the crate.

Even though she doesn't mind the crate, she's a bit of a 4 year old when it comes time for bed.  Her favorite spot in the evening is the snuggle bed-- which is in the living room where all of our evening action takes place.  I think she knows when we're getting ready for bed and she plays dead in the snuggle bed.  No amount of coaxing, bribery or commands can get her up out of that snuggle bed and into the crate independently.  Now, I'm no doggie psychologist, but my best guess here is that she wants to be with us and when we go to bed, she gets locked in her crate while Toby gets to snuggle up in bed.  I think it's pure manipulation on her part!

Don't get me wrong... she's not a conniving little pup.  She is a real love bug.  The back yard is an acre, fenced in.  After work today, I walked back with the dogs to monitor any digestive issues she might be having with the change of scenery and the antibiotics she's taking.  I saw nothing because she wouldn't leave my side.  This is a dog that simply wants to be with me.  She doesn't follow me room to room, like Doji did.  But she keeps an eye on me.  She wants to be with one of us.  She's content being in her crate if she can see/hear us.  If we go out of the house, she wants to be out of the house.  If we're out and we go in, she wants to be in.  This was quite annoying this afternoon as I went in and out a few times while grilling dinner.  I actually stepped on her!  Instead of getting out of the way, she plays her only move-- flop down and play dead at your feet.

I'm not the only one she flops down one.  She plays with Toby quite a bit.  Toby doesn't necessarily play back.  Yesterday, she would nip at his feet and then immediately flop over on her back to show Toby her belly.  I called it her WWF (world wrestling federation) move.  She nipped and flopped, nipped and flopped, nipped and flopped.  Toby just kind of looked at her with an expression that said, "what do you want me to do?".  Eventually, he wandered away during a flop.  Her energy level is increasing with each day and I'm almost on the verge of saying she's a puppy!  She certainly plays like one.  Maybe she just had such a miserable and loveless puppyhood, that her true puppy is coming out now.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Introducing.... Melia!

We met Carol from Almost Heaven Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary on Sunday and picked up Melia.  Melia has been in the "system" since October.  She was fostered and sheltered, and was so grateful for a little peace, quiet and personal attention.  For the trek home, she started out in a frightened ball in the very back of the station wagon, but an hour later she had hopped over the back seat, with confidence, to snuggle up with Toby and be closer to the conversation.  If she'd had her way, she would have been in our laps!

When I got home I realized she had gotten sick in the very back.  Even though there was a HUGE blanket back there, she has managed to throw up her breakfast in the one tiny spot where it trickled down under the back seat.  Uck.  While I cleaned the tight crevices of my car, Melia romped and explored in the back yard.  Carol had mentioned that she wasn't too playful.  She liked other dogs, but was really shy and submissive.  We weren't expecting her to be playful with Toby at first.... but we were wrong.  Once out of the car and romping in the fenced in back yard, she pawed at Toby, got him to chase her in circles and explored with grand independence.  She came when we called her, but was comfortable enough to explore on her own.

She doesn't know how to play with people.  We tried "catch me, catch me, if you can" and we tried "I'm gonna chase you" and we tried "chase the toy".  Nothing.  Instead of playing with us, she would run up to us and just play dead.  Literally, she would roll over or crouch down very submissively. 

From the best we can tell, Melia is half golden retriever and half love bug mutt.  We keep hypothesizing what the other half is... she's about 50 pounds and "short" for a golden, but her body is kind of long and her paws are pretty big and webbed--more so than Toby's.  She has these amazingly expressive ears.  They're a little beefier than most Golden Retriever ears, but they're oh-so-soft! And she melts at your feet if you reach down to pet them.

Melia's age seems to be as much of a mystery as her DNA.  One vet that assessed her thought she was about 1 year old.  Another vet thought maybe 8 years old.  Carol thinks she's in between.  Maybe a sprightly 5 years old?  She shows no sign of being a senior dog and yet she's way too mellow to be a puppy, in spite of her small statue and puppy-ish expressions.

We've only had her for about a day... more to come! 

If you or someone you know is interested in adopting Melia, please contact Almost Heaven Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary  (