Remy's StoryThe news of the 75 rescue poodles in Duchesne County, Utah was well publicized in June 2009. The poodles were victims of an animal hoarder.
This is the story of how one of those rescue poodles came into my life...
In June 2008, I was returning home to Kansas City from a week long cruise to Mexico with my daughters. Within days of our return I received life changing news that my decade long career in the home building industry had been terminated. I was one of the thousands of casualties of the downturn in the housing market.
Hundreds of miles away in Duchesne County, Utah, a tiny black poodle was being born into horrific conditions. He was born into a one room cabin overflowing with more than 70 other dogs. He was born without a name and without human companionship. He was born into a room piled high with feces and the stench of ammonia that would burn your eyes. He was a victim of an animal hoarder .
Back in Missouri in the spring of 2009, I received another round of bad news. The home I was desperately trying to sell, after taking a 40% reduction in salary with a new employer, was not selling. In the midst of trying to figure out how to hold on to our home, I arrived at work one morning to discover that the company was downsizing and I was once again unemployed. These events brought me and my daughters to live with my parents in North Ogden, Utah in June 2009.
After the heartbreaking decision to rehome our dogs in Missouri due to a very uncertain future, we arrived in Utah knowing that we wanted to open our hearts to another dog in need as soon as we were able to. Because the home we were in did not have a fenced yard, we were looking for a small dog that fit our current circumstances.
On June 16, 2009, a news story broke when a man died at a local hospital and authorities discovered that the man had been a dog hoarder. In his small cabin, 75 dogs, mostly poodles, were being kept in a small room. The conditions were the worst many had ever seen. The dogs had suffered long term abuse, neglect and malnourishment. News reports described the room as being covered in feces, as much as a foot deep in places. Of the 75 dogs on the property only 66 were alive. Others were in such bad shape that they were euthanized after being removed. The rescue poodles were split up among several local organizations because there were so many. News stories were calling for potential adopters to open their hearts to these dogs.
My daughters and I headed to the Utah Humane Society in Salt Lake City, Utah. Upon our arrival, we found that only 2 of the 16 rescue poodles they had received were still available. Both of these rescue poodles were small black males. They had been shaved because that was the only way the volunteers could attempt to get them clean. They were both cowering in the back of their cages, shaking with fright. The card on one of the kennels stated that his name was "unknown" and a tag on his neck identified him as rescue poodle #39. We decided to take him out and give him a good look. We carried him outside and placed him in the grass. He froze with fright, not knowing what to make of us, the grass under his feet, or his surroundings. I picked him up and he pressed his small body against me, still shaking in terror. At that moment we knew that we were going to open our hearts and our home to rescue poodle number 39.
We were told that he had recently been neutered and vet checked but that they could offer no long term health guarantees due to the inbreeding that had likely taken place. We were told not to crate train him because of the abuse and neglect he had suffered. We were given fair warning about the time and patience that he would require. It was suggested that we bring rescue poodle number 39 home as a "trial adoption". "Just see how it goes for a week", they told us. "If you still want him after the week, come back and sign the official adoption paperwork". We brought him home.
On our way home we decided that rescue poodle number 39 would be known to us as "Remy".
When we brought Remy home, he was much more of a statue of a dog than an actual dog. He was stiff and refused to move. We picked him up and placed him outside and he stood frozen. We picked him up and placed him in his dog bed and he lay there for hours without moving. He continuously shook and you could see terror in his eyes. It was heartbreaking to be with him.
Late on the first evening, I sat quietly next to Remy and put a few kibbles of food on his bed in front of him. He eyed the kibble and looked at me, then back at the kibble. To my amazement, he ate. Over the next hour I placed the kibble a few inches farther and farther from him. Eventually he left his bed and took a few bits of kibble out of my hand. Even though I was warned not to crate train him due to his background, I wanted to see how he would do and was willing to work with him while he adjusted. I put a few bits of kibble in the crate and he walked right in. I closed the door and he curled up and went to sleep. This was a huge victory for day 1, but his attitude about his crate would soon change.
Remy seemed to be improving by the hour. He was extremely cautious, but the constant shaking soon stopped. Remy ate and drank about a foot from the safety of his bed. We began to work on leash walking. With much patience and the lure of a treat, he began to move forward on the leash. Only a couple steps to start with, but by the end of the day I was able to walk him on his leash the 50 feet from the safety of his bed to the outdoors. Soon we were walking outdoors on the leash. It was fascinating to watch his self esteem grow as we walked. He was was doing the poodle prance and showing great confidence. Walking was when I first starting to see the dog in Remy begin to emerge.
I soon began to understand the potential problems with the crate. After the first night, when I placed him in his crate he was restless and began to paw at the door. To help soothe him and settle him down, I placed his crate next to my bed and dangled my arm over the side of the bed with my fingers gently stroking him. He curled up and went to sleep in no time, but the moment I removed my hand, he awoke and became restless once again. I reassured him throughout the night and even though I didn't get much sleep, Remy settled down and slept peacefully.
Soon, stroking him was not enough and there was nothing I could do that would reassure him. Exhausted one night, I picked the crate up off the floor and placed the crate on the bed next to me. He instantly curled up and went to sleep. We had several nights like this. Remy would sleep peacefully in the crate on my bed while I attempted to get comfortable while curling up around that wire box. This arrangement was short lived. After a few weeks, I gave up entirely on the crate for Remy. My room had become his safe haven. So instead of being crate trained, Remy was "room trained". This made him happy and I finally got some much needed sleep.
Remy became extremely attached to me. Because my daughters were gone for the first couple days after he came home, his bond with me was very strong. We tried to get him to bond as strongly with other members in the house. My daughters began to be the ones to walk him and to teach him basic obedience. Everything that they could do to bond with him they did. His bond remains stronger with me than with others and he still has small panic attacks when I'm suddenly out of his site, but this is improving. It should lessen in time but may be something we always need to work on.
One of the biggest side affects of Remy's background seems to be a fear of doorways. In the first few weeks after we brought him home, he would back up and turn a few circles at each doorway before having the confidence to walk through it. He now only hesitates at certain ones and needs to be encouraged to go through others. I've thought about what may have caused this fear and the only thing I've come up with is thinking about managing 75 poodles in one room. If you were to open the door, they would all want to run out. So, there was probably some yelling or screaming or kicking when the door was opened to keep them all confined. Remy may never fully get over his hesitation at doorways, but I will do my best to help him with this problem.
Most people that meet Remy would have no idea that he is a rescue poodle who began his life as the victim of an animal hoarder. They would not know how far he's come in just a few months. He is a bit timid around new people at first, but warms up quickly. He loves other dogs and will actually whine to meet them when we are on our walks. He has proven to be a smart little guy and has quickly learned basic obedience. We also started teaching him agility since he seems to love to jump. He has amazed us at how high he can jump. He dances for treats and will give you a high five. He is a lover and loves to be loved. He smiles and his eyes roll with delight when you massage and pet him.
Remy will always have a few quirks, but he is no longer a project that we need to work on. Remy is a wonderful dog and a much loved member of our family. We are excited about our future together.