By way of introduction.... (Sophie's story)

Share your experiences of rescuing a Chow Chow from this site.

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ciaobella
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By way of introduction.... (Sophie's story)

Postby ciaobella » Wed Mar 29, 2006 1:06 pm

Sophie is a rescued “throwaway” who had lived in the woods behind my apartment for an indeterminate amount of time. I started working with her when I was feeding a stray cat in hopes of finding it a home. One morning, I threw open the curtains and found a white arctic wolf polishing off the cat’s dinner. I soon realized she was a chow, and only slightly less a wild creature as I had originally thought. My neighbor took the cat, and I took the problem child.

She was a shy girl, and I’d go so far to say, borderline feral. I gained her trust by excruciating inches. For weeks, I’d put her food outside, come inside and sit while she ate. Any sound or motion would startle her and she would disappear into the woods. One day, I put her dish on the patio, sat down beside it and started weeding my plants. Previously, she had growled at me if I didn’t set the dish down in a timely fashion, and it was no different this time. I looked her square in the eye and said, “Well no, I don’t think so,” and brought the dish back into the house. I think the look of utter shock and outrage on her little face is something any chow owner would recognize (yes, Judy, she is a right baggage). I waited a full five minutes, took the dish back outside, sat down and calmly futzed with my plants. She glared at me for a minute or so, gave a little grunt, and tucked into her dinner. That was a breakthrough.

A full six months after first seeing her, I touched her for the first time. I was knocking down spiderwebs from the eaves of the patio and noticed Sophie watching me with great interest. I began to whisk the featherduster around her like a cat toy, and she jumped on it with enthusiasm. While she was gnawing on it, I reached down and scratched her head. It still brings tears to my eyes when I remember how she leaned into my hand, God only knows how long it had been since she had felt a loving touch from a human.

It took nine months of negotiation to actually get her into the apartment. She was content during the winter to make her bed on the patio. Many mornings I would find her making a muddy “pressed ham” against my sliding glass door with her bum. No amount of pleading would get her inside, until summer came. Summers in Tennessee are pretty unbearable even without a fur coat. Her method for keeping cool was to wallow in a small trickle of muddy creek in the woods. I started leaving the door open with the AC on full blast and she eventually started creeping closer and closer until she finally made her way in. I would have to sit perfectly motionless while she slept, with the door open and then eventually with the door closed. It occurred to me that I had never seen her fully asleep before... she would doze in the back yard and startle awake at the slightest sound. It so touched my heart to see her sleep such a deep uninterrupted sleep, I didn’t mind being still. If she panicked and ran to the door, I let her out immediately. If she came to the door, I let her in immediately.

About the time these miraculous events occurred, the wheels came off of the wagon, and she went into heat. She resorted to her former wary ways, avoiding being touched and running to the woods at any provocation. I had tried to get her in and keep her in when I first saw the signs. My neighbor even donated a diazepam to try to calm her down. I would have done better to have taken it myself. I slipped it to her in a chicken liver, and the effect was about like giving Paris Hilton a cocktail. Have you ever noticed how many chow mixes there are in the world? They have to be one of the most amorous and determined breeds on the planet. She bolted at the first opportunity, and that was that.

The father was a perky cocker spaniel with a snappy little bandana around his neck. I’m sure he had an ID tag as well, but I had no luck making friends with him as that was clearly not on his agenda. It was sad to see his bandana become more and more bedraggled as the days wore on, but finally, she was done with him, and sent him off with a nip on his rump for his trouble. So much for romance.

This was pretty disasterous, but I considered the upside. Surely she would see the virtue of birthing her pups in a nice, safe, cool apartment. Surely she would want to be in close proximity to three heaping plates per day of chicken, kibble and vegetable stew. Well, no. When her time came, she hightailed it to the woods with not so much as a backwards glance. I was frantic. What if she had complications while whelping? What if she got viscious with a neighbor who got too close to her pups? I was reduced to a weeping, blithering wreck. My neighbor and I scoured the woods in the dead of night trying to find them. No luck. In full-on disaster mode, I was sure I would never see her again. About four-ish the next day, a much thinner Sophie came calmly wagging up to the back door ready for dinner. Ecstatic, I came and sat outside as she ate, determined to follow her back to her pups when she was done. It amazes me still how a white chow, that in most circumstances sticks out like a sore thumb, can simply step into the woods and disappear without a trace. I never had a chance. Over the weeks, I would search the woods. Sophie would pop out unexpectedly with the attitude of, “Oh, it’s you. How delightful”, but never took me to her den.

Finally, after four weeks (and on a dark and stormy night to boot), she brought three of the fattest babies I had ever seen to my door. Truly a testimony to good nutrition and strong chow genes, they looked nothing like the daddy. The two males did have the cocker puppy tendency to pee and poop anywhere and everywhere but the female was chow down to the ground and disdained to do either in the house. I hated giving her up, she was a carbon copy of her mother.

As it turns out, if there had been ten puppies, I would have had no problems placing them. Many people had courted Sophie with little success, and were content with getting a pup. I placed the little girl with an experienced former chow owner who actually tried to pay me for her.

Today Sophie is a relatively normal, neutered(!) and carefree girl. We did our socialization by going anywhere dogs are allowed, but she considers me her designated human, and as such I am the only one who gets to pet her. She actually enjoys the company of humans now, but prefers to keep them at arms length. It cost her a lot to give up her wild ways, and I don’t force the issue. It infuriates me to think that any dog that requires the least amount of trouble or training is in danger of being booted out the backdoor or taken to the pound.

One day while we were walking, I met a neighbor who finally gave me her story. It seems that the family who owned her kicked her out after she had puppies, kept the puppies, abandoned her, and moved away. She wandered behind the apartments for a couple of years going door to door for scraps. Sometimes the nice people who fed her moved away, and not-so-nice people moved in. She became more and more frightened of people as time went by, and small wonder, since every human she came in contact with had let her down or abused her. Anyone who had tried to befriend her were suspect after a certain point. He asked me how on earth I had gotten her to come around when all others had failed.

I just smiled and said, “She was very patient with me”.

Sandy
Last edited by ciaobella on Wed May 30, 2007 8:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Owned by Sophie

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Postby wrat » Wed Mar 29, 2006 1:42 pm

pretty nice..amazing what patience and persistence will bear

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Postby mrtdwt » Wed Mar 29, 2006 1:45 pm

I am sitting here crying and thanking God that there are people like you in this world. What a lucky and blessed couple you are to have found each other.

Michelle

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Postby Codybear » Wed Mar 29, 2006 1:56 pm

Bless You! Glad things are working out.

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Postby Judy Fox » Wed Mar 29, 2006 2:00 pm

What a story about patience and devotion. She is a very lucky chow girl and you should be so proud of yourself.
I salute you! :D
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Postby Auddymay » Wed Mar 29, 2006 2:13 pm

Reminds me of a line from a Tom Petty song (which I often quote to my hubby) 'You got lucky, babe, when I found you.' 8)

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Postby TigerTiger » Wed Mar 29, 2006 4:36 pm

Salute to you! And God bless!
Purple kisses from Tiger xxxxxx

Karen, Pablo & Tiger

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Postby meex18 » Wed Mar 29, 2006 6:15 pm

You are truly an inspiration to every chow lovers out there. More power to you :)

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Postby Debbie » Wed Mar 29, 2006 6:35 pm

well done...why did you keep persisting? what was so appealing about Sophie? how long have you had her in your home now? and does she let others near her now??

what a beautiful story of rags to riches for Sophie! and for you, a truly loyal and beloved friend. :x :x

Debbie and Bones

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Postby Samorrathis » Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:49 pm

I only wish there was more people in the world like you. I guess sometimes a person see the potential in another and their new love ends up being a diamond in the rough. That's how I found my husband :lol:
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Postby ciaobella » Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:05 pm

Thanks, all. I remember how frustrating it was to have this story, and no one to understand or appreciate how difficult it was to bring Sophie back to the world. Most people would say, "You got her in the HOUSE? Why didn't you hog tie her and take her to the vet to be spayed immediately? She's JUST a dog! Are you demented?" and the like. Only the people who lived here and knew her situation had an inkling what I was up against. And I knew nobody at the time who were familiar with the chow disposition under the best of circumstances. Wish I'd had you then, but I'm glad I have you now! :D

I just don't believe after this that ANY dog is a lost case.

Deb, I couldn't turn away from her. You could see in her eyes how badly she wanted to trust again. She was so brave. And very, very, very smart.

I'm not sure how old she is. She's been with me since 2001, and the vet thinks she had some age on her then because of her teeth. I think she has bad teeth because of her crappy panhandler's diet, but maybe that's just wishful thinking.

Sophie has her favorite people and will tolerate a quick brush-by of the hand. It isn't because she's afraid of people anymore, she almost seems to enjoy luring people in so she can jump back at the last minute ("Psyche!"). Sometimes I wish she could be more touchy feely, but what she wants matters more to me.

Oddly enough, she has no problem with the Vet. He's very confident and self-assured and she's always happy to go see him, even though she knows an ice-cold rectal thermometer will likely be involved. :shock:
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Postby kingalls » Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:30 pm

Sandy,
Your patience and love has it's rewards! Congrats to you that Sophie has adopted you.
I share a similar story in that our Shiloh was an abandoned puppy that found refuge in our backyard. It took about 4 months before we could pet her with our feet (she would come up on the deck and get just close enough for us to touch her with our feet - if we leaned forward to pet her with our hands she would bolt and run under the deck). Two months later I left the sliding glass door open and she hesitantly came in for a few minutes.
I certainly understand how much patience it takes - you'll be forever rewarded.

Karen

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Postby ciaobella » Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:39 pm

Like I said, very, very smart! I think our kids are hip to the fact that we have opposable thumbs....
My partner in crime neighbor could pet Sophie with her feet, too. I forgot about that.
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Postby ngraham » Thu Mar 30, 2006 4:40 am

Thank you for your love and patience with Sophie. How lucky she is to have you. And how lucky you are to be owned by Sophie. A match made in heaven. :)
Nancy and Tai

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Postby Mandy » Thu Mar 30, 2006 6:39 am

You are amazing. Congratulations on bringing that wonderful girl into your home. We need more of you in this world.

thank you for sharing your story.
Mandy, Chewie, & Cayenne
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Postby Victory » Thu Mar 30, 2006 7:11 am

You are a wonderful and special person. I like how you knew intuitively not to let her ride herd on you. When she growled over her food and you told her off and then showed that you meant business and had to be respected. This is the mindset every chow owner must have, and I'm convinced it's something you either have or don't have; it can't be taught.

I'm also intrigued by the way in which the females in these situations behave, with wariness and running as opposed to the males, like OJ, very aggressive and assertive. Has anyone else taken in another male chow? I'd like to hear that story as well.

Anyway, thank you for taking in this little sister of fur, and welcome to this site. If you have pictures of her, we'd love to see them.
Victory, Darkwind, (our angel), Firesong, and Dreamdancer
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Postby chowfrnd88 » Thu Mar 30, 2006 10:30 am

What an amazing story! I also was in tears here at my work computer! :D What you have done is wonderful, you are an amazing person! You two are lucky to have each other.

Victory, Special Dark was also found wandering around the streets. He just walked right up to my best friend's husband who was walking their two dogs and Special Dark just followed them home! :wink: I imagine that his situation may be completely different though, because he did not seem to out alone for too long.

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Postby ciaobella » Thu Mar 30, 2006 11:53 am

I'm blushing from all the praise, but really, Sophie deserves a lot more credit! It was tremendously hard for her... honestly, I've had racoons at the back door who were less afraid of me. So proud of her.

I'd love to post some pix, and will eventually. I'm a perfect idiot when it comes to internet stuff.

As for getting the dominant role situation sorted out, well, I tend to think sometimes she only lets me be alpha because I have the car keys. :D
But seriously, I have a hard time thinking that because a dog is food aggressive, they can't be retrained. I know some shelters use that as criteria to euthenize.
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Postby sit_by_the_beach » Tue Mar 06, 2007 2:25 pm

How's Sophie doing? I am fairly new here. I am trying to read previous posts. It will take me years.

I wish there were more people like you. My previous chow Luna was something like Sophie. I wanted to adopt Luna, I couldn't understand why it took the foster mom one month to let me have her. I later found out, it took them a month to find Luna, the pups and then they released her to me. With the agreement that I have her spayed, which I did. Luna was with me for 10 years.
I loved reading about Sophie, brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful, independant spirited dog you rescued.
Karin
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chowMIKKI

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Postby Roxana » Tue Mar 06, 2007 3:30 pm

Sandy,
Wow! I had no idea about Sophies background. Had you mentioned it before? I just always assumed from her beautiful pictures you got her from a breeder or something. That is an amazing story. Very similar to Karens experience with Shiloh. Again....wow :x

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Postby Dogdad » Tue Mar 06, 2007 4:03 pm

wow how inspiring. thanks for sharing Sophie and your story.

David

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Postby furballchowbaby » Tue Mar 06, 2007 5:05 pm

What a beautiful story!! I love it!
Melissa and Maggie May


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Postby chris » Tue Mar 06, 2007 5:50 pm

Roxana wrote:Sandy,
Wow! I had no idea about Sophies background. Had you mentioned it before? I just always assumed from her beautiful pictures you got her from a breeder or something.


Me neither, I thought the same thing Roxana did. What an amaxing story... I love it... that one definatly needs to go in the book Judy.. don't you think?

Wow.. thats all I can say.. I keep thinking that. I read your story to my husband and he is amazed as well. It took alot of patients (I know thats spelled wrong) on your part and on hers. GOD bless you both.

Chris n Steel
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Postby Sharons Chows » Tue Mar 06, 2007 6:06 pm

I never had any idea about Sophie either.
What a truly wonderful story!

Sharon

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Postby janet » Tue Mar 06, 2007 6:11 pm

one word. wow.
chris, i was thinkng the same thing. it should definately be in the book.
or better yet print the story and hang it in all the shelters. i think it might make someone think twice about not adopting a chow.

you did a wonderful thing, words cannot praise you enough.
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