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Mamadog aka Ginger’s story

Oh, Mamadog.. where do we start?

This is the first I saw of Mamadog at the end of October 2010.

She was at MDAS with her six puppies and there were please going out throughout the rescue community for someone to save them. I happened across the posts and thought I’d look into the situation.  There were conflicting reports about Mamadog.. Some said she was fine, others said she was aggressive. As it was clear their time was almost up, we started to work together to at least find people who would take the puppies in twos and bottle-feed if the mama was too aggressive to pull.

The puppies:

At the time, I was working with another rescue. I had sent the links to the person who OK’d the pulls so if all went well I’d be able to take them and was told it was fine. The day I visited the dogs, they were basically on their last day there, which was confirmed by the shelter worker I spoke with. Want to talk about an emotionally difficult situation? I saw the puppies. Met Mamadog and had her growl at me. At the very least, I wanted to save the puppies.. I had a volunteer to take maybe two of the puppies, but didn’t even have a firm commitment on that.

I have dogs at my own house and I have been bitten in the past and take dog bites very seriously, especially from big dogs, so bringing home an aggressive dog was a very scary idea to me. One of the volunteers assured me Mamadog was probably just scared and she should be OK. I went back and forth on it. I ended up saying I’d take her for a walk and see how we’d do. I didn’t get to the door before she growled and picked a fight with a goofy lab minding his own business. I took Mamadog back and, with tears in my eyes, said I could save the puppies but that I couldn’t risk bringing that dog home. I went home with the puppies in a box and with the assurance that nothing would happen to Mamadog at least overnight in case I was able to make arrangements for her.  That night my husband and I went out to dinner and decided over pizza that we would give her a two-week chance. If she was still a bite risk after two weeks, we’d take her back to the shelter, but at least we would know we gave her a fair chance.

So I drove down to the shelter the next and pulled Mamadog, then took her to the Burger King up the road for the customary just-out-of-the-shelter double cheeseburger.

She was so scared. So scared. She stayed hunched over and looked just.. droopy. Skinny with her ribs showing and droopy.

Hackles up:

I had set her & her puppies up in the garage with a pen she could jump out of, blankets, a heater, etc. I would let her out in the backyard to get some “her” time and run around. I would have to put her back on the leash to bring her back in the house and talk about nervous… I had no idea what to expect from her. The first time I did it she went at my hand.. “Here it comes,” I thought. She got me with her lips. Literally, she lipped me. I rolled my eyes and laughed and I think that was the end of the tension between Mamadog & me. By the next day, I was taking her in the shower with me to get her stinky doggy self clean. Soon, Mamadog & I were like peas & carrots.

Mamadog & puppies

The problem is, while she loved me, she didn’t really trust anyone else. Including my husband. I knew I was going to have to work on her before she’d be able to be adopted out, but with the puppies taking up all my time I figured that could wait. The puppies were growing like weeds, making a mess, playing, and having a wonderful time. I was so thankful every day that they did not meet their end at the shelter.

Then just as her puppies were at the age they could begin to be adopted out — SIX WEEKS after they had arrived at my house and when they already all had homes lined up — Mamadog’s runt baby, Sesame, fell ill.  The vet diagnosed him with distemper. The two largest, healthiest puppies were already in a new foster home and continued to do great, but the four smaller ones at my house came down with distemper one by one.  And one by one, they died.  My husband and I worked so hard to keep them alive, to give them the chance to fight the disease. We adopted a puppy, Olivia, who we fostered through her distemper outbreak and she lived, so I stayed optimistic we could beat it.


RIP Sesame, who was peacefully euthanized at the vet’s office after he went into an extremely bad neurological phase of the disease.


RIP Blossom, who fought for so long. We syringe-fed her and gave her fluids around the clock (I learned to do fluids just for these guys and thankfully my husband already was comfortable doing it). Her diarrhea would just not quit, despite the immodium treatments, so nothing we put into her was absorbed. We were making a recipe given to us by the vet with whole roasted chicken along with vegetables, potato, and high-protein Boost to blend it all together. She grew thinner by the day and eventually it became obvious that it was cruel to not let her go.  She was euthanized at the vet’s office.


RIP Nutmeg, who we thought was going to live, just as our Olivia had. Her distemper were not as bad as Sesame’s or Blossom’s but then her breathing difficulties began; she had pneumonia. She had a heater keeping the bathroom toasty, a vaporizer, coupaging and nebulizer treatments. We gave her a TV when we couldn’t be around since her siblings were all gone and I made little mounds with towels in her open crate where she could get comfortably propped up, just as I had done for my Olivia.  I thought if we could JUST get her through her pneumonia… Then she stopped pooping. She would eat a little on her own, I fed her via syringe all day long, but she wasn’t pooping. Meals of pumpkin, laxatives.. nothing helped. Then one night while a volunteer was holding her and sitting outside on the side of the house with her, she got spooked… she pooped.. and then went into respiratory failure. Within minutes she was brain-dead and it took just minutes more for her to stop breathing. She was the last loss at our house, and the hardest. I am so sad that she will never get to grow up to be the beautiful dog she should have been.


RIP Anise, who was adopted before any of the distemper struck at my house. She developed it within weeks of going to her new home. Her adopters are wonderful, wonderful people and tried to help her survive. I got the good news that her vet declared her out of the woods and she wasn’t due for a check-up for a month. A week later I found out she had gone into respiratory failure herself and was humanely euthanized at the emergency vet’s.


After Mamadog’s puppies had all passed away, except for the two who were thankfully adopted into great homes and are still doing wonderfully, then we went to concentrate on Mamadog, who after two months at my house still ONLY liked me. If I weren’t home and she was outside, she’s stand at the sliding glass door and bark at my husband until she was panting. If I was in the room, it wasn’t so bad… a bark here and there.. sometimes we could even sit down and watch TV and she was calm.  But if I left the room, Mamadog got anxious and would bark at him. She nipped at his pants once, and nipped at his shoe, just as she mouthed the behind of the woman who came to give the puppies their first round of vaccines, but I never have seen any real show of aggression.

This is Mamadog, while the puppies were still here. She was happy and loved being here, but still trusted only me.

I am going to do the short version here. I have the long version if anyone is interested. Basically, due to the fact that she was a one-person dog and they did not feel it was something that would get better despite not offering her the rehabilitation she required (yes, this still makes me mad), the rescue that I was working with wanted to put her to sleep. They felt her fear/aggression made her unpredictable and dangerous; I call it fear/aggression because I have only seen her exhibit fear, although she was fear aggressive when out of my home and in a new, scary environment.. from what I am told she was downright terrified. My options were: put her to sleep in a home environment with me present; put her to sleep elsewhere; or take her back to the shelter and let her take her chances to get rescued again, knowing full well what would have happened to her. So I fought.. we’re talking phone calls and emails and meetings.. to make sure she got a fair chance. Obviously she was coming from a bad place, but the way she acted with me made me believe that she had the potential to eventually be in a good place with a good future.  Eventually the rescue that had sponsored her pull from the shelter surrendered her there so that I could adopt her back out under my own name. I saw her as the other rescue was dropping her off.. she had pooped herself in the crate in the back of the car and was drooling. It was extremely sad, but I never understood how she had not acted like that with me, even on day one. And then even after that it was agreed upon that I could adopt her, it was a fight. A dozen times, I felt like it was an overwhelming situation and maybe I should just give in.. But then I couldn’t imagine not letting my girl get a chance, just because for some reason the rescue was against giving her one, just because it was difficult for me. And I certainly did not just go through the deaths of four precious puppies only to put their mama to sleep. No way.

Mamadog coming out from MDAS, the second (and last!) time:

When we brought her home on January 24, my husband and I tried to do things differently so she could live here without barking at my husband all the time… my husband came up with the method, which was basically keep him between me and Mamadog every moment we were in the room together.  If she wanted to be by her Stacey, she’d have to be dealing with Chris too.

This was early on in our attempts.. as you can see Mamadog is not thrilled about the attention:

I had spoken with some dog experts throughout this whole ordeal and one who I trusted very much I felt was being realistic while also allowing me to be optimistic about Mama based on my experiences with her. She said that if we could not get Mamadog to be a normal dog at least in my home, there really was not hope for her being adopted out. And since I can’t keep her.. Mamadog has prey drive and my house is full of prey (cats, bunnies).. she needed to be adoptable. Mamadog NEEDED to be able to trust my husband.  If she could not be a normal dog, a workable dog, she would need to be euthanized. While crying, hard, I agreed.

With this in mind, I made sure that we worked not only on socialization but also in making sure she had the best life she could in the case that she would have to be put to sleep. This was a possibility I had to keep in mind, despite the fact that every time I even started to think about it I would get choked up. But I knew as well as the next person that we couldn’t have a dog who could only function normally when I was at home. We couldn’t go the next 15 years without me being able to leave the house unless my husband wanted to listen to Mamadog bark at him through the garage door. We couldn’t go through that or put her through that stress, or have a dog living in the garage for her whole life.  So I took her on lots of walks. Spent a lot of time in the Mamadog den we made for her in the garage.. Twin size mattresses, dog bed, chair & ottoman, TV, unlimited chewies. Snuck her onto the beach, which she loves.

We also worked on basic commands like sit and down to build up her confidence and give me something to tell her to do when she got anxious when we were out.

And guess what? It worked. Mamadog loves Chris, my husband, just about as much as she loves me now.  When he comes home from work, she barks at him until he gives her attention, crawling all over him with the HUGE TAIL WAG she used to have reserved only for me. She loves and trusts him and in return he loves her back and takes her on doggy  jogs a few times a week.  I will get video of them together soon.  It’s pretty awesome how far she’s come, and it started just days after she got home here this last time.


Although Mamadog has prey drive, thankfully my kitties don’t come in the living room. Sadly, this prey drive makes her a non candidate for becoming a forever pet here.  But for now we are happy to be able to make it work for her here for the time-being. We have a baby gate on one entrance to the room and sliding doors on the other with locks. So as long as I am in the living room (like right now as I type this), Mamadog can be out with me and the big dogs and she can go outside through the doggy door whenever she wants. When I can’t be out here, she goes in the garage. Sometimes we go in there and watch TV with her. It is not a forever situation, but I’m happy to make it work for now.

She likes to play with her buddies…

Jump on the furniture…

Play with her toys…

Snuggle up in her too-small doggy bed.

And do the best goofball tail wag I’ve ever seen.

Someday I’ll get video of when I first get home and walk into the room with her.  She puts my dogs’ happy reactions to shame with her bouncing around, tail wagging, jumping, happy, love-love-love-happy-happy-happy reaction.

She is Mamadog’s beautiful face, a happy video still from one day when we were out for coffee.

Does that even look like the same dog from the earlier pictures?  And we are sharing a table with a stranger here.  My happy, pretty girl!

Mamadog is still not perfect. But she had the absolute best reaction to a stranger house guest last week. My aunt & uncle came for a visit and she actually acted happy to meet them.. Sniffs and happy body language and jumping up to get a better smell. When we were all outside together, she was fine with them. When my husband and I left, however, she did bark at them. So.. not perfect.. but doing so much better.  She barked at our houseguest the week before for the first few minutes he was at our house, but soon ignored him.  She played happily at his feet while we watched TV. She let him pet her.  Whereas she used to bark at strangers in a BIG and SCARY way if they came in the house, nevermind the garage, my friend went in the garage the other day and she was just fine about it. Not a peep out of her.

And I had a trainer take Mama away from me at an event a couple of weeks ago to spend some time with her. I hid behind a tree and spied on them so Mama couldn’t see me and was happy to see her walking around and sitting with someone who was not me.  The trainer came back saying she was a GOOD DOG. Just scared. Needs confidence. Very sensitive to correction. NOT AN AGGRESSIVE DOG, however. And she said she’d love to work on her for free to help her become a more confident dog. So we’ll see how that goes.

So this is Mamadog’s story. Or the beginning of it anyway!

Going forward, I am going to try to find people who can help me with Mamadog. I think learning to trust a new person should be on her list of to-dos. I would like to get her to the point where she could happily do a night a week away from home. I tear up when I even think about her being adopted someday, but it is what we are working towards, so I am trying to think of new ways to get closer to that goal.  If anyone can help, please give me a holler.

UPDATE: Mamadawg has found her forever home. She will now be known as Maybelline. SUCH GOOD NEWS! <3