No One Told Me About Rescue Dogs.

No One Told Me About Rescue Dogs.

There are some significant things that we didn’t know when we set about adopting a rescue dog. The learning curve has been going on for a couple of weeks. Every day we have new insights. New questions. Some are answerable; some, we’ll never know. Some, we didn’t know enough to ask.

We didn’t know that the integration process would not be a simple as it has with all our other dogs, when we adopted them. Or, maybe we simply forgot; their cuteness and delightfulness overriding the disconcerting memories of housebreaking, crate training, and replacing furniture, books, shoes, and  oh, yes, my leather wallet.

Boxer People Searching For The Right Dog

We appreciate most dogs; and we were looking for a boxer. We’ve had boxers for decades. We love everything about the breed. We enjoy the personality, the temperament, the energy level, the playfulness, the couch-potato-ness, the affection, the devotion, and the style of companionship they exude. As a PetMassage™ Practitioner, I love the size, the body type, the coat, the color, the feel, the textures of soft and rough, and their natural ability to help with teaching workshops. Our boxers are working dogs. They have credentials: PetMassage™ Canine Teaching Assistant.

I dragged Anastasia, who was content with sharing our life with one dog, Camille, to adoption events all around our region. I subscribed to dog adoption websites; got on mailing lists. I spread the word to my friends and students so that they could keep a watch out for promising candidates where they lived. I haunted the Humane Society, making sure to be informed of and present when new shipments of dogs arrived. I repeatedly visited the shelters. If there were even the slightest chance our next dog might be there, I was there.

Persistence, and being at the right place at the right time, eventually paid off. One day while visiting our local county animal control, I heard that a stray female boxer had just been brought in. I was shown a 1” x 1” black and white, highly pixilated photo of her. I could make out a boxer head, a boxer body, and a cropped tail. I was not permitted to meet, or even view the dog; and wouldn’t be able to until a week had passed and the county could legally take ownership of her. I could, I was told, put down $25 to place a hold on her. I would have, they explained to me as I pulled out my credit card, first dibs.

Hearts Melt For The Underdog

The dog we met, when the week was finally up, was an emaciated, fawn boxer, with an aging graying muzzle. Very different from all the other beautifully turned out dogs we’ve chosen.  She wasn’t pretty; but her timing was impeccable.  This dog’s nose was puffy and bleeding from her constant pressing up against the bars of her crate. The RVT told us that lots of dogs show self-mutilating behaviors when in this situation. I didn’t know that. No one ever told me.

She had an ear yeast infection that was being treated with drops and she had to finish a course of antibiotics because she had been spayed the day before.

We adopted her on the spot. We took her, along with Camille, to a dog park and were pleased at how calm she was around other dogs. She was so calm! Slow moving. Marginally interactive. We’re quiet people, so she’d be perfect for us. We took her home and gave her the same food she’d been used to eating at the shelter. The RVT had mentioned to me she was a finicky eater. She inhaled it. We were delighted. And then she threw it all up. We figured the residual anesthesia from her spay surgery was affecting her digestion. We understood and sympathized. We renamed her Coco.

Sick Little Underdog

Her nose started running. She began coughing up phlegm, leaving a trail of white foamy puddles wherever she went. She stopped eating. She refused water. She’d been a scarecrow when we adopted her. Now, four days later, her ribs and pelvis were even more pronounced. Her big brown eyes were sunk into her skull. She was content to lie resting; her face in her puddle of drool. Her coat was grey and dull. Her skin flaked in dandruff. We were worried. What had we set ourselves up for? Did she have some serious disorder? Camille has never been sick; ever. Would she get infected?

So off to the vet we went. We were assured that it was not the canine influenza that’s been terrifying dog professionals at dog shows. She was prescribed a cough suppressant and more antibiotics just in case there was a virus. Two more days passed. Coco’s condition was deteriorating. She looked like she was dying. Anastasia and I were confused, apprehensive. She had been coughing and wheezing and throwing up and restlessly staggering around at night. This was highly stressful for us, too. We were sleep deprived, anxious, and carefully tiptoeing around the conversation of returning her to the shelter if she didn’t get better.

Walking Our Talk

I said to Anastasia, “We’ve got to walk our talk. Let’s take her to the school and give her a PetMassage™. If she doesn’t respond, at least we’ll know that we will have done everything that we could.” You may have seen some of the videos from that session on our Facebook page. She was stiff, tired, passive, exhausted. At the end of the session she did her best to integrate with a wobbly shake.

An hour after her session she ate a scrambled egg. She kept it down. She slept through the night. She coughed less; drooled less. The next day, her appetite was returning. She showed more energy. She played with Camille. There was more joie de vivre. More pulling during walks, more interaction with her surroundings. She showed us that she likes chasing birds, squirrels and rabbits, wailing at other dogs (which we are correcting), and climbing up onto my lap, nudging out Camille. No one told us that it is common for rescue dogs from shelters to have kennel cough. I had to find out about it by doing a search online.

Kennel Cough

The kennel cough would have run its cycle. It would have been in its own time though; not necessarily on my schedule. The recovery “coincidence” is obvious. The PetMassage™ that Coco experienced is what made the difference. It enabled her to turn the corner.

PetMassage™ Effectiveness

Coco’s PetMassage™ did what we say it does. It balances her body-mind, and spirit. It enhances her quality of life. It integrates with, and enhances the work of veterinarians and their medications. It has a positive effect on the practitioner’s body-mind, and spirit, as well. With PetMassage™, the transformations, shifts, rebalancings, and mind-body releases in one, are shared by both.

In this case, it saved her from being recycled to another owner. It saved us from feeling like we were incapable of adequately caring for this new dog. It also reinforced the incredible feeling of doing good, being righteous, opening our heart and home, rescuing a shelter dog. No one told me about that either.


  1. Beth Arrowsmith on June 25, 2017 at 10:20 PM

    Great article! And working with Mill Dog Rescues is still another level. I volunteer at a large, well known mill dog rescue and would love to do massage with them, but many are simply not ready for much touching, much less a massage! I bathe the dogs and do use some
    calming poll work when I can. The best part of being a volunteer is seeing how resilient these dogs are after spending many years in horrible situations. I learn so much working with them!

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