gizmo’s journey

It’s been a minute since I did a little Gizmo update – partly so I don’t drown you all in LOOK AT MY DOG AND THE THINGS HE DOES and partly because we’ve sorta tackled a good chunk of the bigger milestones!

They warn you it takes a long time to transform a truly damaged mill rescue dog – they warn you they will probably never be normal. They even warn you that you may get almost nowhere, and that may be where you stay for the rest of the dog’s life. We were okay with that – and we’re beyond ecstatic over how far we HAVE gotten! We’re actually hitting that average time period (7-9 months out of the mill) that experts say they begin to become a little more like a “normal” dog, and we can totally see it.

Can you imagine Gizmo when we reach the 15 month mark, when he’s finally been OUT of a puppy mill cage longer than he was in it? He’ll be an effin’ ROCKSTAR. Until then, here are the currents, in bullet point fashion! 😉

 We ended up opting out of Puppy Mill Awareness Day because as far as he has come, GIANT groups of humans are still way.too.much for Gizmo to take. Thus Sean and I found ourselves with an unexpected vacation day on the Monday before last. We scheduled a dental for Bailey, and with lots of time to kill until his 4pm pick-up, we decided to test run Gizmo at the dog park. Gizmo has never, ever, EVER been off leash – if you don’t count that time he ran out of the front door and I had a genuine HEART ATTACK luring him back inside with Pup-Peroni. Because he’s apparently part Cheetah and can also be unpredictable, we were pretty sure this was a dumb idea and braced ourselves with the fact that we may spend 10am until 4pm running circles in the park to capture our dog again. 😉 However, because the dog park has a double-locking entrance gate and is tiny enough we can book across it quickly, we decided to chance it (and still tucked treats in our pockets and put on clothes meant for dashing after runaway dogs, LOL). We ended up literally being the ONLY dogs/humans there, but all be darned if Gizmo didn’t follow us around, have a blast, never stray too far, and leash up easily. WEWERETHISPROUDYOUGUYS.

 We went on a second dog park trip last Saturday. Unfortunately, they had predicted rain, so we were the only ones outside of a small terrier – but Gizmo was overjoyed with the whopping ten minutes he got with said terrier. He is hideously wary of humans, but MAN does he love other dogs. To the point we realized he would absolutely follow a cool dog right on out of the park, so we have to watch him like a hawk – and to the (sad but adorable) point that once the small dog park side emptied, he stuck his pitiful face against the chain link separating him from the “Big Dogs Only” half, and waaaaaaaaaaiiiiited for anyone four-legged to come say hello. I sort of envisioned him like Sloth.. “HEY YOU GUU-UUYS!” But again? Leashed up and went home just dandy. Have I mentioned WEWERETHISPROUD?

 We discovered he has a “thing” with men with shaved heads that we didn’t realize before – which also may explain why it takes everything in him to snuggle with Sean (something he improves upon, bit by bit, each day – but is still significantly different from how much I can pester him physically). We were watching a show with a shaved head man and he was asleep, and I paused it with the dude’s face, and he woke up and lost his mind. Thinking maybe it was just the concept of a giant paused person on the TV, I hit play – and ONLY when the shaved head guy came on did Gizmo growl and hide. So then we began to think about what men he’s approached quicker than others, and it’s the shaved head folks he hides from most. Unfortunately for Gizmo, Sean has The Curly Hair, and we are not letting go of the shaved head look. He’ll just need to adjust 😉

 I can snuggle him at night – he likes it. In fact, he’s completely lost the concept of personal space, because as soon as I put my head on my pillow, he sits his BUTT on my FACE. And is like HERE WE ARE MOM. SNUGGLING. LOOK AT US. So we are working on the concept that snuggling can occur without placing our tooshies on/near/against my eyeballs. He has started doing that Socially Awkward thing again where he waits until Sean falls asleep, then sneaks over and STARES at him (so close, his face touches, it’s almost creepy) and wags his tail. As if Sean might be about to do something extraordinarily exciting any second now. Any. Second.

 We (still) won’t eat food from our elevated food stand, or in any fashion that isn’t Sean or myself holding his dinner bowl. We actually tried free-feeding for a few days, and VOILA! He was feeding himself. The issue was the idea of THREE dog food bowls to guard from EVERYONE OMG was too much for Looney Tunes (Emmie) to manage, and she ended up literally making herself physically ill with worry. I know. Hi. Remember how I used to train dogs? And didn’t suck at it? Pretend I don’t have the most emotionally odd girl dog ever. She isn’t even a herding breed, but the very concept of tossing all her toys around the room sends her into cardiac arrest. THEY GO IN HER TOY BIN PEOPLE. She’s like her mama in that way – EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE. 😉 So back we went to holding his bowl – we’ve tried new bowls, bowls on floors, plates, high bowls, ceramic bowls, metal bowls, plastic bowls, cartwheels, balloons, and promises of pony rides to no avail. **WAIT. Did anyone else just sing Eminem? “Big bowls, small bowls, I’m calling all bowls..” No? Just me? Alright.** He will now take TREATS from his bowl… so slowly, there are signs of progress. We are focusing on this task because we do realize it will be impossible for anyone to feed him should we ever want to take a vacation sans Gizmo.

Other than that, we’re good 🙂 And apparently so in love with our nutcase dog that when we heard a puppy mill breeder had DUMPED 40 Cavalier Spaniels on a rural road last week at 1am and the shelter was getting loaded full of mill rescues needing homes (alongside 51 Malteses), we nearly got Dog # 4. Thankfully, it appears a large adoption event last weekend found the rest homes (those that didn’t go to rescues for medical/emotional reasons) and we donated a little spare cash instead.


But it was worth the wait. 😉

I can now almost routinely pet Gizmo – and it melts my heart every. single. time.


(NOTE: This post was part of a previous domain and comments were not migrated over.) Can you believe today marks the six month Mister Gizmo came to live with us?! When I see him navigate the house like a nearly “normal” dog, pick through the (many, many…) puppy toy bins for a particular chewie, pop into the car for a ride – it’s nearly impossible to think he almost didn’t get these things. That he almost stayed, for life, Dog # 232. It warms and saddens my heart all at once.

They say it takes about 6-8 months for a mill survivor to become fairly normal – with what we expect to be double for Gizmo because of the extent of his emotional damage. Yet I feel like he is right around the corner from making even bigger milestones. You guys, he is doing SO WELL. There were absolutely moments in this journey so far where I thought, “Dear lord, what DID we add to our household!?” but I am so glad we did!

We don’t really fear bark anymore! We still like to lecture Sean – but more in play 🙂 Actually, since Sean does the laser pen game each night around 10 or 11pm – from 9pm on? Gizmo has decided Sean must be reminded of laser pen and will play bow, beep, and bounce around until it happens…. even if that’s like an hour away. We will grumble and bark really quick to tell newcomers that we want a wide berth while we check them out, but for the most part, he’s just a normal chatty Cathy!

He is really coming around on being touched – He loves his chin/ears to be scratched, so he after nightly laser pen (and you guys – you should see him wait for laser pen! the miiiiiinute we head upstairs for bed, he’s all wiggles and yips and bounces and then does his “best” to sit and wait patiently, but no sitting politely dog could possibly waggle more, his entire body vibrates), he comes up and does Socially Awkward Gizzy: The now patented creepy side stare, waiting for pets, while standing practically on our heads.

His progress in trusting men, and therefore Sean, is getting so much better. He’ll get excited and come over when Sean gets home, allowing occasional scratches, with the other dogs – all while wiggling, even if he chooses to stay about two feet away. We like to say Gizmo’s mouth might say anything, but his wiggle-butt tells the truth. 😉

He has a sweet tooth – or at least he thinks he does, since he doesn’t eat sweets. All my dogs are hopeful hover-while-you-eat-ers, Gizmo included. But for a dog who doesn’t like much human closeness, if I am eating anything with sugar while sitting on the loveseat, he will stand on top of me. Literally. Fears be gone! THERE WERE SKITTLES IN THERE! (Okay, first and last Hangover reference, promise).

We went to the vet for our annual vaccines! The idea of having to take Gizmo, who has only been to a vet once in his life, to get handled by staff for shots? Made me nauseous. New strange people? Scary. Touching him? Scary. With needles? Scary. Yet he proved me a needless spaz, as he waited in the front area like a champ – even sniffing a toddler because Bailey was! The staff was amazing with him and went sssslllooooowwwww with their movements and did minimal, super gentle touches. I totally sent them cookies after.

We celebrated by testing him in a large, bustling group for the first time today: We went to the Farmers Market! It has a very narrow sidewalk, so navigating that with three dogs and oodles of people meant Gizmo was forced to believe in himself (and us) in busy and unpredictable situations. He did really well – it was hot and so busy that it was just a little too crowded, so we only stayed about 15-20 minutes to pick up a few things, but he did pretty well. One little meltdown and I carried him for about a minute to “refresh”, but we were insanely proud.

We are on a long journey with the food bowl ever since his collar tags momentarily snagged between his bowl and it’s elevated stand many many months ago. We swapped out hanging tags with a slide-on tag to eliminate clinking hanging tag noise (which now FREAKS him out), which allowed us to move from hand feeding to eating out of a bowl that we hold. Eating from the bowl on his own is still too scary, but Sean has commandeered this project and is getting him ever so slowly back in the game. We did confirm it was the tags – and his rescue explained many mill dog’s tags get caught in their cages and they can be stuck for days, so I’ve no way of knowing if Gizmo experienced this same horrific experience – and even now, if his slide-on tag clinks the bowl somehow, he shoots back several feet and has to be coaxed to the bowl again. Poor bubba, we’ll get there.

We’ll just keep truckin’ with touching. We’re currently making progress on the fact feet, legs, and backs can be pet without The World Ending. 😉 He’s starting to believe us.

We are now working on more social activities to get him more comfortable with group settings, new people and more bustling situations. Go, Gizzy, Go!



(NOTE: This post was part of a previous domain and comments were not migrated over.) As we wrap up our fourth month with Sir Gizmotto, I’m happily jotting down additional progress (so I can cling to it desperately when he regresses, har har!) Bit by bit, he’s becoming a goober in his own right, and we just adore him.

  • Even less barking (THANKGOD). He is startled by movement & sound much less often – and therefore, much less scream-in-your-face-y. This is one area that I am SOEXCITED is improving, month by month.
  • He learned his name is just his and wiggles ridiculously when you say it. I’ve never met a dog more excited about his name. I die a little.
  • His leash walking skills keep improving. He still hasn’t connected that putting his leash/harness on leads to the walk he enjoys but since the last update, we have had zero melt downs on walks. We are still sticking to night walks as foot traffic continues to overwhelm him, but he’s much better! Removing the leash + harness combo is better as well, because he now listens for the “You’re FREE!” verbal cue before trying to fly out of them.
  • He completed another successful trip to Petsmart.
  • He has discovered he loves the car. Almost as much as he loves laser pen. You may not put him in or out of the car – HE’S A BIG DOG AND HE’LL DO IT HIMSELF – but you go anywhere NEAR the garage, he’ll be there, bouncing around and screaming at the very thought of a car ride. Like a real dog.
  • He is interested in company. He no longer screams and then hides upstairs when a neighbor drops by, and after spending four days with Sean’s folks at the house (who came readily armed with treats), he decided he can sniff people’s shoes, hands, and even take munchies from them without dying – so they can’t be all that bad.
  • Best thing to note? I think he might be catching on to this whole “dogs like to be touched” thing. He often stands just out of reach with his head tilted to the side when we love on the other pets, as if he’s absorbing the strange concept that these other dogs LIKE human contact. That morphed into sniffing the hand that was petting said other pet. Then last night in bed, as we were reading with all the pooches draped across our legs like usual, I became very aware of a small dog very close to my face, just STARING at me with the level of social awkwardness that only Gizmo can muster. I tried to not move so I wouldn’t startle him, and after a few minutes of being creepily monitored, reached out slowly and scratched his chest. And his wee little eyes closed just a touch from the goodness, and I tried to not SQUEAL in his FACE from my excitement. After a few minutes, he backed away and lay down by my feet. A few minutes later, SEAN found himself eyeball to eyeball with Gizmo. You’d think Santa had crash landed through our bedroom with the Tooth Fairy, we were so in awe. We both held our breath, and then Sean also reached out and scratched his chest. He didn’t want to be scratched as long by Sean (who did his best to contain the SHEER GLEE on his face because this was the first time he has been able to pet Gizmo), but when he decided he was done, he only backed up a few steps and laid down against Sean’s ribcage. At which point, Sean exhaled and Gizmo shot him a look and went and lay down by our feet. STILL.

  • We continue to play the ”Will I Be Afraid of Breakfast Or Not?” game, going a week with amazing success and then a few days with irrational fear of it, but we keep tweaking and we’ll get there, darn it. He was successfully eating from his bowl, zero issues, from day one – until his tags accidentally caught in the elevated stand and from that point out, he’s been positive the bowl will try to strangle him – even if you’re hand feeding him and the bowl is nowhere in sight. Sigh.
  • Men are Not All Bad – I rinse, wash and repeat this mantra to Gizmo daily because I am fortunate to experience more progress with him than poor Sean. I contribute most of that to the mere fact that I am at the house with him almost one week more per month than Sean is (thanks to working from home), then top that to the fact I’m short and higher-pitched – and I just luck out. But we ARE seeing progress and though this is the biggest area of “three steps forward, two steps back”, steps ARE being made!

Other things of note – I take back that remark last month about moving around things less, LOL.

He doesn’t destroy anything, but he moves it. He takes blankets and pillows off our chairs/couches and puts them in other rooms. He drags all the rugs down into the hallway. He takes the covers off the pet steps. If its decor and he can move it, he’ll do it. He thoroughly enjoys this, and the few times I’ve caught him doing it, he chitchats to the items the entire time. Grumbles and barks, play bows with pillows, attempts to get blankets to play chase. He’s a very strange little man, but I’m thrilled he’s OUR strange little man.


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.