Tuesday 28th July: Mops and Bugsy

It’s a big day for Mops, the unbelievably gorgeous and sweet floppy mop of a puppy who was surrendered by her previous owner as a collie.  Hah!  She’s much more beautiful than that.  Anyway, little Ginger was supposed to be moving to Whiskers’n’Paws today as a guest until he found a home, but he’s too sick and will have to go to hospital instead.  So it’s time for Mops to move on, and as much as I have grown to love her I want her to have a home of her own. She’s become good friends with the Terrible Two, Minky and Sparkle, but she’ll have new friends at Horizon Plaza and a huge terrace to play on.  In any case, I doubt she’ll be there for long as someone is sure to want her.

 I leave Mops in the office at Whiskers’n’Paws with a rawhide chew to distract her, and jump in a taxi.  It’s AFCD day today, and as always it’s not something I look forward to. I missed yesterday’s visit thanks to Ginger needing to see a vet and then other distractions, but I know I can’t miss today too.

 Most of the kennels are empty when I get there, and I know what that means.  I can’t dwell on it, and need to check the new arrivals to see who I can save today.  I already have some dogs waiting to be taken that I had reserved last week, and today’s lucky ones are a very cute Border Terrier cross (probably with a shih tzu), and a shih tzu who has been waiting for a while as he is microchipped (owner finally untraceable).  The terrier is as sweet as can be, and I have no trouble looping a leash around his neck.  The shih tzu, however, is another matter.  He’s clearly not happy, and shows me his teeth as a warning.  He’s wearing a collar with a bell attached, and we know he’s been someone’s pet as he is microchipped, but now he’s an angry dog with an obvious grudge.  I manage to get a loop round his neck and he follows me out of the kennel block, but I know that it’s going to be a challenge when it comes to having his rabies shot done.  I’m just grateful that he’s already chipped.

 After years of dealing with dogs that are either very scared or have some behaviour issues, I’m pretty inventive when it comes to ways of getting the dogs chipped and vaccinated without being bitten.  This little shih tzu is in no mood to cooperate, and even though he’s no bigger than ankle height those teeth are still effective.  I ask the staff to wait as I think about how I’m going to hold the dog still while he’s injected, and then come up with my master plan. 

I sit down on a wooden bench that’s nearby and pat the space beside me.  I know that most little dogs like to jump up on chairs, and sure enough the shih tzu puts his front paws up on the bench in response to my invitation, and a quick tug on the leash hauls him up next to me.  I then pass the end of the leash through the back of the bench between the slats, and ask one of the staff to hold it tight.  The shih tzu’s head is now held firmly against the bench, and I complete the manoevre by putting a towel over it and holding him firmly while the rabies hot is administered.  Done.

 Although microchipped Bugsy, as I decide to name him (after a notorious Chihuahua),  is  registered as being six months old and he is clearly not a puppy.  I need to enter a more accurate age on the license application.  Normally I’d check a dog’s teeth as well as eyes and general appearance, but there’s no way I’m putting my hands near Bugsy’s mouth, and his eyes are covered by a long and very dirty fringe.  I get down to his level and approach him carefully.  Bugsy opens his mouth in a threatening way, and without realizing it shows me his teeth quite clearly, and I can see they’re still clean and in excellent working condition.  I put him down as two years old, but he could be even younger.  What has happened to him to change him from a normal (I assume) six month puppy to this angry young man?

 Even though Busgy’s not a happy dog, he follows me without complaint as I lead him and the terrier, Bumble, out of the gates.  In fact I can see after a short time that this little dog is actually just scared and confused rather than aggressive.  I’ve been watching him as he stands and waits patiently while we find him a kennel space,  and by the time I go to lead him to his new ‘home’, he has already accepted me as the only thing in his life at this point that he knows.  Once inside the enclosure that he’ll be sharing with a handful of other small dogs, I need to unloop the leash that’s round his neck, and while talking to him softly I tentatively put my hand on his back and gently give him a rub.  He responds by arching his back in a way that lets me know he likes it, so I continue with the massage as I loosen the leash and remove it.

I know Bugsy isn’t going to be an easy dog, but he has shown me that he can, and will, be fine if he is treated with kindness and respect. Whatever has happened to him in his life so far has turned him into a dog that doesn’t trust people, and it will take time to teach him otherwise.  Tomorrow will tell how long that process will take, but we’ll give him as long as he needs.

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2 Responses to “Tuesday 28th July: Mops and Bugsy”

  1. Norma M Says:

    I think most of his agression may be fear as he came up to me today and I gave him a head scratch and a pat and he seemed to want more. Did not ralise at the time what a performance he had given the day before! Hope he will realise we are there to help him and will soon be a happy little chappy!

  2. Diana Says:

    Dear Sally,
    I enjoy reading your blog everyday and I admire your persistence in saving the lives of unwanted dogs. You should write a book and I’ll be the first one to buy it.

    Bugsy reminds me of my own dog, Foon Foon, a female Shih Tzu. Three years ago she was abandoned by her previous owners at a grooming shop in Tsuen Wan. They were about to have a baby so they just left her there for whoever wanted her to take her. She was so confused and didn’t eat for several days. My previous dog was quiet and calm and so I thought would be this one. But I was wrong – she was noisy, wilful and had a lot of requests. She was unfriendly and snapped at me when I tried to take a biscuit that had accidentally fallen into her basket or when I groomed her. Inspired by the calmness of my previous Shih Tzu, I was determined to turn her into a calm and happy dog, regardless of how much time it might take. It took me a lot of patience and perseverance in finding ways to counter-condition her undesirable behavior and reward her good behavior. It took me a good three years and it is so satisfying to see her now quietly and happily lying on her cushion, only occasionally barking once or twice if there’s some noise outside. I keep telling others that we have both worked on it together.

    I hope that Bugsy will find a good home soon and I hope the new owner will give him all that love and respect that he deserves. It takes time to change him and I hope the new owner understands this.

    I’ll be at the Pet Expo this Saturday and will definitely come around to the HKDR counter to make a small donation. We’ve met once, at one of Victoria Stilwell’s talks.


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