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OFSDS: Keeping the Peace

Our Old Friends, for the most part, get along pretty well, but, they are like a big family and as you would expect, sometimes there are clashes and disagreements. One very important part of our Dog Caretaker’s job is to monitor the relationships between our Old Friends.

We do things different than most everyone, so we are always learning. Because our Old Friends will often stay here for the rest of their lives, we want to offer them the most enriched life possible. This includes having a large social group and it is here that we are in many ways charting new territory. For the past 6 years, we have been learning. Since we moved to GrandPaw’s Gardens, we are learning much more.

When we first moved, a year ago, we were introducing many dogs who had never met. For a while, tensions ran high. Not only were the dogs new to one another and their surroundings, we had not worked out who would sleep and eat in which area. We had not even worked out how we were going to manage the feeding process. There was a lot of trial and error for several months. While we now have much learning behind us and have worked out processes that are working well, we are still learning and tweaking our arrangements daily.

Our Lead Caretakers meet almost daily to discuss where there are problems between our Old Friends and they discuss how to remedy the situation.

We have many rooms that you don’t see on the cameras. We can close off a room, or group of rooms at a time. Especially when there is cold or bad weather, and everyone can’t spread out, we will often separate the dogs into smaller, more manageable and compatible groups. We have “Small Dog Hall” which consists of three large rooms and an oversized hallway where the little guys can interact and spread out. If there is someone causing trouble, they can spend some time in their own room with their door shut. We rotate the little guys outside during the day for potty time and fresh air. Next is “Big Dog Hall” where we tend to keep the larger dogs together. There are three larger rooms and a large socializing room where everyone can spend time together. We can keep these guys together in this large area while the small dogs get their time to roam the yards. We only use crates for short time outs, a couple for sleeping and for feeding.

We have five separate yards where we can either spread out or separate our Old Friends. Two of the yards are used almost exclusively for intake, reception area and isolation dogs. The other three are sometimes fully open, but often we use the yards separately. The Big 5; Dakota, Sugar, Hailey, Cassie and Mousse, are often found in two of the big yards with access to the greenhouse. They are not separated because they are a problem… they are separated because some of the smaller dogs harass them mercilessly. They are much happier in their own area without nippy little dogs. Sometimes you will see this interaction as they are being moved to their area in the mornings. Melvin is one of the worst at bothering them. During the day, we will sometimes divide the two yards and let Dakota and Chanel have time to play together. They enjoy this time very much.

In some cases, there are two dogs who just don’t get along. Unless they are physically aggressive with one another, we will often let them work it out and they almost always do. In other cases, we will put one dog in a room while the other is out and will switch this during the day. Dogs who are especially shy about being around the other dogs or who are too frail for the main dog area, are sometimes moved to the Reception area. Currently, Hazel, Izzy, Ponce de Leon and Sophie, among others, make their home in Reception.

The winter months have presented us with new problems as we are unable to get everyone outside and exercised as well as we’d like. In early January, we moved 11 dogs to Hilltop Pet Resort, a local doggie vacation spot, to relieve the stress. This is, of course, expensive, so we do this only when absolutely necessary.

As you can now understand, we are constantly re-evaluating and changing as new challenges come along. There are a lot of discussions daily to make sure that we are doing the best that we can for the dogs in our care. It’s not possible to explain every decision as this is a dynamic, ever changing environment.  It certainly keeps us on our toes….