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Adopted Mutts! December 10-23

Adopted Mutts! December 10-23

Congrats to these senior mutts who found their forever homes!!


To see the profiles of these lucky mutts, visit the Recent Adoptions section of our Mutts page.

Every dog adopted means another life we can save.
There’s a perfect senior waiting for you!
Click here to see all of our mutts.

You can help create many more new beginnings!
Adopt. Foster. Volunteer. Donate.

mariem3 | 12.27.12 | 2 comments

Success Story "Gracie"

Success Story "Gracie"

a perfect story for the holidays to remind us of the little things that make life special for our furry family members.

thanks to russell for sharing the story of a little senior lady named Gracie:

this is gracie’s story. the story of a most ordinary dog living an extraordinary life. the story of despair and fear turned to joy – and a little less fear. and this story has the ending that every dog’s tale should have… a happy one.

today, gracie is my dog. her life is extraordinary. she gives love and gets love – and in case i’ve forgotten, she reminds me that nothing else matters. she writes blogs for other old dogs, she poses for pictures and shares her deep thoughts online. with her compassion and experience, she helps our Muttville foster dogs adjust to their new lives and prepare for forever homes. she enjoys daily adventures with senior small club – sniffing more than walking, but this is how old dogs get their exercise!

on the weekends she joins us for long hikes along the beach, riding on my back in a backpack, watching the scenery, and eventually being lulled to sleep by the rhythm of my footsteps. and when she is with me she feels safe.

being loved by gracie changed my life. i didn’t expect it. i thought she would be like most of the dogs we foster at small club – in need of a little extra care before being ready for a forever home. emotionally, physically, spiritually neglected, these dogs open up and slowly transform into beings who can trust and love again. then they meet the right person, get adopted and live happily ever after. gracie progressed slowly. after 3 weeks she chose to come out of her crate. after 3 months she decided it was safe to hang out on the couch. patiently we gave her space to grow; tenaciously we posted pictures, blogs and videos of this secretly hilarious girl. despite our efforts – and the popularity of her videos – no adoption applications arrived with gracie’s name on them. ever. not one.

we began to call her “one of a million,” because she appeared to be the most ordinary muttville dog: an overlooked 10-12 year old mutt, brown, with a cherry eye and no teeth. this is usually no obstacle to finding a perfect home, since each of these truly unique dogs is meant to go on to enrich the life of a lucky person. turns out that for gracie, i was that person.

over time, gracie learned to connect with me while struggling to feel comfortable around any other humans, even ones she saw every day. she let me carry her, she let me take her to cautious canine class, and she learned that she could kind of trust me. for many dogs, trusting their foster is just a step on the way to trusting people in general. and we had foster dogs in the past who had lived with us for more than 6 months before the right person came along. so i was reluctant to adopt gracie… i already had a dog who needs a lot of time. and if i kept gracie, i might be giving up a spot in our home reserved for the next homeless dog in need. it was the words of muttville executive director sherri franklin that changed my mind. after inquiring about the other foster dogs,“how’s lady? and prince william?” she smiled, laughed and asked, “…and how’s gracie?” i gave her the usual update: “a little bit better.” she looked me straight in the eyes and said, “russell, why don’t you just give her what she wants?”

i thought about it: gracie doesn’t ask for much… all she wants is to rest on her corner of the couch, eat as often as possible, and look forward to me coming through the door at the end of the day. she wants to stay where she feels safe, and she wants to be with me.

so gracie will spend her golden years here. every day she forgets a little more of her past, replacing her sad memories with dreams and deep thoughts created while snoozing the day away in a warm bed. she needed someone to love, but had never had the chance. almost 2 years ago she was delivered from some hellish backyard in bakersfield – now she loves not just 1 person but 2 people, 2 dogs, and all our foster dogs. she wouldn’t admit it, but she needed someone to love her. someone like me, who will challenge her but never ask her to be anything other than who she is… my touchstone, my philosopher, my laughter, my ordinary old dog.

If you adopted a Muttville dog, we would love to feature you in an upcoming ‘Success Story’. Please contact success_stories@muttville.org with the Subject line ‘Success Story’

You can help create many more new beginnings!
Adopt. Foster. Volunteer. Donate.
mariem3 | 12.26.12 | 7 comments

Mutt Advice: "What’s happening in that canine brain?"

Mutt Advice: "What’s happening in that canine brain?"

We’re launching a new series featuring Muttville’s own volunteer Canine Training Team Leader, Maureen Backman. She’ll be giving tips and advice we hope you’ll find helpful in caring for your dogs, both young and old.

One of the critical elements I learned in graduate school when writing case notes for counseling and social work clients was the art of description. An example one of my professors gave, which still sticks in my mind two years after graduate school, was as follows:

A woman comes into your office for a counseling session, and her eyes are red and bloodshot. What can you derive from this?

One of the immediate answers that comes to mind is, “Oh, she’s been crying, of course.” True, that’s one of the possible answers. But what if the woman has allergies? What if she has been using drugs or alcohol? What if she has a medical condition? If a counselor were to write in her case notes that the client had been crying prior to the session, odds are this would be incorrect. It doesn’t take a graduate degree to realize the consequences of this. A much better case note would describe the woman’s appearance, avoiding any interpretation or inferences without further input from the client.

As I embark on my new career as a professional dog trainer, I frequently note the parallels between training and clinical social work. The added difficulty is, of course, dogs don’t speak our language. Perhaps less easy to digest, we don’t speak their language, either.

In her book Oh, Behave, animal behaviorist Jean Donaldson makes the excellent point that even using a high-tech brain scan on a dog would simply give us numbers and brain wave readings. It wouldn’t give us a Cliffs Notes version of what that dog is thinking.

Does this mean we should despair? Of course not! As dog owners, and in my case a student of animal learning, we have the tool of observation. Returning to my previous example of the therapist and client, the therapist could ask the client questions to determine why her eyes are bloodshot. Unfortunately, we can’t ask our dogs why they are, for instance, snarling and growling at a grandparent. But we can gather facts about the behavior, which are valuable clues:

• When does the behavior occur?

• Where does the behavior occur?

• What exactly occurs? (In the example of growling, are the teeth bared? How much of the teeth are exposed? What is the rest of the dog’s body doing during the growl?)

• What’s the duration of the behavior?

And so forth. Note the word “why” is not listed above. “Why” is a tricky word when it comes to dogs. There’s a lot of pressure in the dog behavior and training world to explain “why” ad nauseum, even when we might have no clue why a dog is behaving a particular way. One of my colleagues at the Academy for Dog Trainers recently made the brilliant observation that some of the best trainers have the confidence to tell clients, “I have no idea why your dog is doing this! But we can focus on the behavior.” This isn’t to say that “why” isn’t an intriguing question. On the contrary, it’s a question that gets me excited about research and science – and I’m a liberal arts major at heart. But when it comes to living with our dogs, training our dogs, and communicating with trainers and veterinarians, “why” isn’t always productive.

Anthropomorphizing is a dirty word in some scientific circles. I am a frequent offender when it comes to this. Just like many, I love dogs. I give them voices. I give them little monologues in those voices when they do silly things. I talk to them even though I know they have no idea what I’m saying. In my opinion, there’s no harm in this if done in fun. It’s a great way to increase the bond between owner and pet. But when it comes to training and behavior, in particular behavior that is “bothersome” to us, we have to be careful. One of my fellow Academy colleagues recently brought up the example of house soiling, and the fact that sometimes owners think it’s a sign their dog is retaliating against them. I can understand how this myth started. In our minds, doing one’s business on the floor is a clear way to communicate “back off!” In our minds. But dog’s minds are different. Here are two ways of looking at this example.

Case 1, The interpretation: “Fido did number 1 and 2 on my favorite carpet that cost $1,000! He must be mad at me.”Case 2, The observation: “Fido, a five year-old basenji, did numbers 1 and 2 in the house. He was left alone for 4 hours for the first time in his life. He typically is left alone for 2 hours. Fido gave owners a dramatic greeting with lots of vocalization and jumping upon their return. Fido is fully house trained. This is the first time he has soiled in the house since his owners got him as a puppy.”

See the difference? In case 1, we are led to believe that Fido is one vengeful dog, and we have no further information as to how to prevent this behavior in the future (other than, I suppose, lecturing Fido on not taking his anger out on an expensive carpet). In case 2, we have more to work with. In fact, it tentatively appears that Fido may have had some separation anxiety due to being left for longer than he is comfortable.

Dog trainers love this type of information. It’s meaty. It gives us guidance as to how to develop a training plan. Most importantly, it helps identify how we can help the dog, a trainer’s ultimate goal.

My hope is that dog owners will learn how helpful this information can be for them as well. Imagine being relieved of the guilt that Fido isn’t exacting feces-fueled revenge on you. (Quite a burden to bear!) Imagine the stronger bond you could share with Fido by observing, and therefore learning, his behavior. And, most importantly, imagine how much you could help Fido if he’s scared, anxious or in pain. Not to mention you’ll become every dog trainer’s favorite client because of the excellent diagnostic information you’ll provide!

For those of you to whom this is new, try it out this week. Pretend that your dog is your “client,” and jot down observations about his or her behavior. You’ll be well on your way to stronger communication with your dog and a deeper understanding of what’s going on inside that complex canine brain.

Maureen Backman is a dog trainer in San Francisco and a student of Jean Donaldson’s Academy for Dog Trainers. She has a graduate degree in rehabilitation psychology, and loves coaching owners on how to communicate with and train their dogs. To get in touch and learn more about dog behavior and animal learning, go to www.muttabouttown.com.

mariem3 | 12.20.12 | 0 comments

Success Story "Napoleon"

Success Story "Napoleon"

Straight from the pup! Success Story Napoleon dropped a note to Muttville to let us know how wonderful life is since his new beginning. Read on!

Hello Muttville!

Family and I are celebrating a milestone – my 2nd Thanksgiving in my forever home. How cool is that! All is very well with me! They say pictures can express a thousand words so I hope you can tell that I’m happy and spoiled! My family and I can’t begin to express how incredibly grateful we are to Muttville for giving me the chance to live and thrive. Thank you fairy godmother Sherri, foster mom Lauren, and all the super duper awesome staff and volunteers that save seniors like me everyday!

Happy Thanksgiving & Holidays,


mariem3 | 12.18.12 | 0 comments

Success Story "Augie"

Success Story "Augie"

Thank you to Augie’s parents, Emile and Jennifer, for sharing their beautiful love story with Augie:

We love senior dogs! We discovered Augie on Muttville.org in early February. We knew we just had to meet him. We turned in our application and headed out to a meet and greet in SF. Upon arrival, we discovered that Augie was not going to be there because a family was considering him for adoption. We spent some time with lots of other adorable senior dogs. After much thought, we decided to keep looking. Later in the weekend, we received an email stating that Augie was still available. We quickly set up an appointment to meet him and his foster mom.

On Sunday, February 19, 2012 we had the pleasure of meeting Augie in a local park. He was adorable, friendly, and we immediately knew we wanted to bring him home.

Augie has brought so much love and joy to our home. We love his toothless smile (thanks Muttville for helping with his teeth before adoption), ability to nap anytime, and his love for going to work with Emile in our home office. Augie loves his daily walks and going to the drive-in movies (he is great at napping, remember?). He is also great at cheering for our SF Giants, especially when Timmy or Romo is up. We enjoy taking Augie with us on all of our adventures. He enjoyed his first house boat trip this summer, many car rides to grandma’s house, and especially loves walking around our neighborhood. Augie is very patient when meeting new people, even young children who see him in the park. He doesn’t bark much, unless he hears something unusual at our home and wants to protect us.

We are so thankful for Sherri and her entire Muttville team. Thanks for giving Augie a second chance and we are honored to be his forever home.

Emile and Jennifer

If you adopted a Muttville dog, we would love to feature you in an upcoming ‘Success Story’. Please contact success_stories@muttville.org with the Subject line ‘Success Story’

You can help create many more new beginnings!
Adopt. Foster. Volunteer. Donate.
mariem3 | 12.12.12 | 2 comments

Adopted Mutts! Nov. 26 - Dec. 9

Adopted Mutts! Nov. 26 - Dec. 9

Congrats to these lucky senior mutts who have found their forever homes!

(S4S indicates the adoption was part of our Seniors for Seniors Program)

Paris – S4S
Fava Bean
Spank – S4S
Matilda – S4S
Meghan – S4S
Big Girl Louise

To see the profiles of these lucky mutts, visit the Recent Adoptions section of our Mutts page.

Every dog adopted means another life we can save.
There’s a perfect senior waiting for you!
Click here to see all of our mutts.

You can help create many more new beginnings!
Adopt. Foster. Volunteer. Donate.

mariem3 | 12.10.12 | 0 comments

Success Story "Mia"

Success Story "Mia"

My fiancé loves another girl! They met online. In fact, I introduced them.

He spends a lot of time with her…she calls to him at all hours of the day and night, wanting to play. If it’s too late, he calmly says, “Not yet, but soon.” He talks low and sweet to her. Disappears for hours with her. Yard work, he tells me, but I know. He makes room for her on his big chair. Hugs her and holds her close. Fixes her special meals. Attentively brushes her hair. Buries his face in her neck. Tells her she is good and that he loves her. Calls her his Sweetheart. Sweetie. His Mia-love.

I can’t be jealous. It’s my fault. I showed her picture to him.

“I like her,” he said. Not just, “”Pretty.” The one word dismissive sentence of the rest. This was different.

“Should I ask about her?”

“Yes. I like her.”

A quick email to Sherri and it was done. We were meeting her on the weekend. Picking her up and going to an event. She would be ours.

And so enters Mia, Memers, Mia-love, Mimi, Meems…the other love of his life.

She has stolen both our hearts, but belongs to him. His heart dog. Not a tiny one, but a real dog.

We were told she didn’t have long. Bladder cancer. 4-6 months. Our oncologist said it would be toward the short side…not to expect too long. Multiple tumors. Sherri said she thought she hit the jackpot with this dog…so gorgeous, so well behaved. And then she saw it. The little spots of blood and urine. Probably why she had been turned in. She needed a hospice home.

Nearly 8 months into the love affair, she is still with us. Lost some weight so we feed her more. Lost some balls so we buy her more. Who needs to wear panties all the time when your Dad owns a spot-bot, a rug cleaner, and a housecleaning business?

The only thing Mia loves almost as much as Doug is her balls. Kong balls. Substantial. Not the little airy ones you can pop. The sturdy ones you can sink your teeth into. The ones that you can bounce into the pond and dive for them as they sink into the algae and cattails. No worries. Dad will buy you more.

Fetching is her job. If not a ball, then her leash while waiting at the vet. Who cares if it is attached? If he throws it, she will catch it. Handle caught mid-air. Clever girl. Won’t everyone come and see how clever she is?

She reluctantly leaves her ball on the front porch now. She’ll sit with it and survey her acreage for a while. Her home. Her yard to play in. She can always get him to throw it again. And Mom too, but she throws like a girl. Rain? Wind? Heat? Who cares? It is time for the ball. But only outside. Inside is not as fun. Too many things to run into and Mom doesn’t smile as much.

She also loves belly rubs and treats. Even with pills in them. But mostly her ball, and her Dad.

I told him I was writing this today. Asked what he loved most about her. “Her size. He can wrap his arms around her. She is so smart. And so loyal.” I stopped him there. He would be late for work. I get it. She is perfect. He could go on forever with her praises.

He says he doesn’t know what he will do when she goes. But I know. We will love her like crazy and be grateful for every day we have with her. And when she is gone we will love her like crazy and be thankful for every day we had with her. Grateful her previous owner threw her away so she could be saved and become ours.

Our Mia-love.

Thank you Sherri and Muttville for bringing Doug his perfect dog…his heart dog forever, no matter how much time we have together on earth. Each day with her is beautiful.

If you adopted a Muttville dog, we would love to feature you in an upcoming ‘Success Story’. Please contact success_stories@muttville.org with the Subject line ‘Success Story’

You can help create many more new beginnings!
Adopt. Foster. Volunteer. Donate.
mariem3 | 12.03.12 | 2 comments