A year of animals, blogging and Patheos

Bandit, Bailey and Scout, summer 2011. A year later, two dogs are still here, and they can’t be left alone together in the same room.

I was excited this week to receive a notecard in the mail from the staff at Patheos, congratulating me on my one year anniversary blogging about animals and faith.

Really? A whole year? Where did the time go?

I love writing here. The columnists, bloggers and editors have been kind and welcoming, and I love hearing from readers who have shared photos, shared thoughts and engaged in discussions on a variety of animal-related topics. It’s been a nice change from my decade-plus experience covering entertainment.

Personally, life is a lot different at my house, animal-wise. Last year at this time, I had three dogs who were happily enjoying life. Two were my Border collies, and one was a rescue pup we’d been fostering and had just decided to keep.

By the end of May 2011, our oldest dog Scout would be diagnosed with an aggressive form of digestive cancer and given 30 days to live. Adding to the stress, as summer progressed the newest member of the family proved to be a challenge as she incorporated herself into the dog pack. There were escalating fights, fights that by fall had resulted in stitches (for darling husband, who was injured trying to break up a fight) and injuries to Bandit that required he and Scout to be separated from their sister and that Bailey be looking for a new home.

We ended 2011 with Scout still here, but his end was clearly in sight; he and Bandit were living in one part of the house, Bailey in another, to avoid fights between Bailey and her brothers. And me? I was an emotional wreck.

Here we are in May 2012. Thankfully, Scout defied the doctor’s 30 day predictions; he passed away this past January, seven months post-diagnosis. Except for his last few weeks, you would never have known he was sick. God is really so good to our animals.

We’ve been actively looking for a new home for Bailey, where she can be the only dog, but there are more dogs than homes available, and despite the fact that she’s a fabulous dog when she’s not with Bandit, we haven’t had any takers. So we’ve been doing extensive training and behavior modification with Bailey and Bandit, and while they still can’t be left alone together, in the last month or so have been able to take them for walks. In public. Together. Without fights.

That’s progress, my friends. Fabulous progress.

Living proof that lots of love, patience and positive-training methods can work miracles. Look, their tails are touching and no one is bleeding!

Those experiences have been fodder for writing, but also offered me some great opportunities to expand my circle of animal friends.

I’ve met a lot of very passionate  people in the animal welfare community who do a lot of behind-the-scenes dirty work most pet owners never see. They deal with the most neglected animals, see the most abusive situations, and deal with some of the most miserable people you could ever imagine. I love that I’m able to give voice to their causes. Getting to see the bigger animal welfare picture has been eye-opening, to say the least.

I’ve had the opportunity to shadow a local dog trainer, take more training classes, indulge my passion for dog communication and behavior, and then share that information to help readers learn how to have better relationships with their pets.

Professionally, though, I’ve learned that taking on issues in the animal community in my blog can sometimes put a bull’s eye square on your back, regardless of what side of the issue you’re on. For example, say that Cesar Milan is an interesting guy with a great heart for animals and get attacked by his opponents. Say you don’t like some of his methods and get attacked by his fans. I expected that kind of angry response (and got it) when I wrote about Christianity and entertainment. I didn’t expect it when I started writing about animals.

But that’s OK. In the end, just like in the Christian community (where I felt the friendship and wrath of readers for more than decade) the good far, far outweighs the bad. I’m glad to be here and glad to be able to learn from my fellow Patheos bloggers, to share ideas, and to hear from readers whose views on animal rescue, dog behavior and other animal issues fall across a broad spectrum.

It’s been a good year. Here’s to another! Woof!

UPDATE: October 2014 - It’s been more than two years since I wrote this post, and I thought a little update would be nice. As many of you predicted, Bailey never left our house. She came to stay, although it took a while for us to realize it. She and Bandit still cannot be left alone, although a few times I’ve come home to find they’ve bypassed the gates and were alone in the house for hours. Doing what, I have no idea. But no one was hurt. But she’s still too unpredictable to leave them by themselves on purpose.

Bandit and Bailey, in a rare moment of calm, sit for a photo. A great deal of chicken was required for this.

Bandit and Bailey, in a rare moment of calm, sit for a photo. A great deal of chicken was required for this.

They still walk together at the cemetery, but we have to drive separately. And with much clicker and treat training, they can play “puppy school” in the same room for about 5 minutes before Bailey turns into a wild animal. But overall, they’re settled into this unusual normal that happens when you put a reactive dog and a squirrely border collie in the same space, and then ask two humans to adjust their lives for everyone’s benefit.

 

  • http://www.rewardthatpuppy.com Ada Simms

    Dear new friend
    I am so glad the good Lord hooked us up. You and David have brought Bailey to a place of balance. Her trust in you and David has produced a dog on its way to healing.

    We are guardians…care takers of these marvelous animals that God has given us as companions. Thank you for taking such good care of Bailey.

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Thanks Ada. I have to be honest: I never thought things would end up with even this much progress. Not a half hour ago, Bandit let himself out of the house while Bailey was out. It was a tense moment – neither one knew what to do. She sniffed, he backed off very anxious, she sniffed, he sniffed, and then we calmly led Bailey out the front gate. Had there been something there to rile them up – the mailgirl, someone walking a dog by the house – I don’t know that things would have stayed that calm. But every positive interaction like that just makes the next interaction that much better. Phew! :)

  • Bill Sutherland

    Hi Joanne,
    Just checking in and I see that you have reached a milestone with your blog.
    Congratulations and thank you for your good work on behalf of the animals.

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Thanks, Bill!! It’s been a very interesting year, that’s for sure! LOL But I’ve really enjoyed the interactions with readers and the opportunites to learn and explore animal issues. :)

  • http://www.24hrpetsupplies.com Christopher Goff

    Thanks For an interesting blog friend. I also have 3 pets and I always and care them a lot.Pets need care like human beings. I always bring different pat accessories for them online.

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