Gizmo’s Journey: Two Months In.

March 14, 2012 · 5 comments

puppy mill survivor story

(NOTE: This post was part of a previous domain and comments were not migrated over.) In a better attempt to mark his progress and set-backs, I’m jotting down some of little Gizmotto’s achievements in bullet point fashion!

  • We underwent our first bath around the month # 1 mark and we did well! He did freeze and go as flat as possible onto the ground (his “melt-down”), but once he was all rinsed and free to go, he thoroughly enjoyed discovering how to snuffle from Bailey (aka fly around the house, wiping himself into blankets/walls/couches/etc).
  • He had really great progress with Sean (he fears men more), then giant setbacks, and is slowly making progress there again – thank goodness! He still follows Sean and wags his tail when Sean talks, but if Sean addresses him directly or looks in his general direction, he grumbles, barks, and darts away (then immediately resurfaces if Sean looks the other direction). We’ll get there!
  • We’re much better at our night walks! No laser pens needed anymore and we continue to experience less “melt down” during interruptions. Example? If Bailey stops to pee, the group stops momentarily. Those brief pauses freak him out, and where he would previously melt into the sidewalk and need to be carried the rest of the walk, he only melts half the time – and 100% of those times, he recoups and doesn’t need to be carried. We also wag our tail now for most of the walks, and we aren’t afraid to stop and sniff stuff on our walks or use the potty!
  • We attempted our first daytime walk (aka busy with people and activity). We did shockingly fabulous until we crossed paths with three loud toddlers, and we had a MELT DOWN of epic proportions – but that’s okay!
  • To go along with this, we also enacted a “4-Second Rule” for his melt downs, which also seems to help. If Gizmo can’t collect himself within a slow four count, we pick him up, walk 1/3 of the block and try again. He’s very good at convincing himself of situations that aren’t actually happening, and takes everything personal (if Sean loudly praises Emmie, Gizmo assumes the loud was anger, and the world is surely about to collapse), so not allowing him to dwell if he’s working himself into a “moment” has helped tremendously.
  • We undertook our first “outing” by going to Petsmart. He walked the entire time, in a big/loud/bright/scary store, and while he was nervous and unsure (and had no idea what to do when the well-meaning trainer crouched down and began petting his head), we even managed to walk ourselves out and through the parking lot with the other moo’s. SO. SO. PROUD. Plus a perk for me? Emmie didn’t feel the need to lose all her social graces by LOUDLY trying to get every other dog in the store to play with her for the first time ever. Perhaps Gizmo makes her want to set a proper example. 🙂
  • Dare I type this and shoot myself in the foot BUT… We are housebroken! In the “we have a pet door” sense. We haven’t tested him staying for prolonged periods in areas where he can’t easily go to the yard to relieve himself, but I think he’d do pretty darn well.
  • We are “re-arranging” things less. That’s code word for “We are not pulling the rugs/blankets/pillows/etc all around the house so much anymore.”
  • He barks less. Not much less, but has at least stopped the “Bark In Your Face the Entire Time You Eat or Watch Anything BARK BARK BARK” and it’s been.. Lovely.
  • AND I CAN PET HIM. Not always, not suddenly, not predictably. But if I go slow, let him know my hand is coming, and we’re already in a spot where he is close by – I can actually honest-to-god pet him; and after a few seconds of sheer paranoia, he seems to enjoy it and relaxes. I’ve even kissed his wee little round head a few times and got kisses on my hand when I wasn’t looking.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Alexis August 4, 2012 at 8:12 pm

I love reading this, makes me tear up a little out of happiness. What great progress!

Sometimes I wonder what went on with Lola before I got her, because she tends to have a lot of anxiety with Joel & he complains that she’s too frightened. I don’t know where she came from before the puppy store I got her from (an awful place, I didn’t like being in there & couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her behind, hence her entrance into my life), so I think it’s possible she just wasn’t born into the best conditions & she’s not used to playing as rough with me as the boys tend to do. She doesn’t fear him, though she just gets freaked out more easily with him. Anyway, she never had the problems Gizmo did but it makes me happy to see that with love & work rehabilitation can happen out of ANY situation.

On that note, have you read the book about the Michael Vick dogs that were rehabilitated after that horrendous affair? I have only read an article about a few of them (which made me cry) & have been wanting to get my hand on the book. It’s really beautiful what people have been able to do with those pups. Maybe it would be a good read for you, especially inspiring in light of the work you’re doing with your furbaby. If you get to it before I do or have read it already, let me know how much I’m gonna cry over it. 🙂


Michelle August 4, 2012 at 8:13 pm

super yay! 🙂


Leanne August 4, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Brittney, this is amazing! I love these sort of posts on Gizmo. Keep them up! They make me smile

We’re working on our [nearly] 2 year old Boxer pup right now. Although we didn’t get him from a puppy mill and he was never abused, he does have some major behavioral issues (fear based aggression- with both dogs and sometimes people). We just finished our second class with a behaviorist last week and things are [slowly] looking up! Next week, our behaviorist is going to bring a dog to test out the waters :O

Anyway, I’m glad Gizmo is doing well 🙂


Andrea August 4, 2012 at 8:14 pm

so much great news! and there is hope.. my rescue finn used to freak out walking down the sidewalk when any loud trucks, buses, kids etc would go by and would always be on edge even if the streets were clear… now 1.5 years later he does not even notice the loud noises and he LOVES going for walks.
its amazing that you are working through everything with gizmo. a lot of people can’t be bothered to do the work and would have given him up a long time ago. i find all the work makes the bond between you and your dog that much stronger.


Holly August 4, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I love reading about Gizmo’s progress! My grandma rescued a cocker spaniel from a puppy mill and it took SO much time/patience to get him to where he is today: a happy and rambunctious dog who loves to be with his people. Yay for Gizmo!!!


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