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  •  Three years ago, we made the best decision in deciding to adopt another ESS.  Zoey then came to us and is the BEST dog ever.  She is not only beautiful but so well behaved and is loved by everyone. We can't thank MAESSR and Debbie enough for giving us Zoey.                                                                                                                                                                                                  Judy Minnick, NJ              

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Entered: 12/08/2018
Status: On Hold
Age: 4
Color: Liver/White/Tan
Weight: 59 lbs.
Gender: Altered Male
Location: Fayetteville, WV
Health: UTD, HW-, completing treatment for left ear infection, benefiting from meds for hypothyroidism and Ph adjustment in the urinary tract, one seizure event, weaning from behavioral supplement and meds complete, stool improvement complete, overall good health
Temperament: Good with adults, hasn’t met children in foster care, good with dogs but could be happy as an only dog, unknown with cats

Rhys' Story . . .

Update 03/12/2020: “He remains a good boy, if an extraordinary one!" 

Spring is arriving. With it, the shadows cast by the sun in Rhys’s home change daily. They intensify. Rhys notices this and studies them more than he did winter’s flatter, natural lighting. He continues to respond to redirection when needed. Sometimes it’s a bit of conversation between him and his family. At other times, he’s asked to “go to kennel” or “park it.” “Park it” is new. The idea is for him to focus on one of two identical, cushy mats in the house. He goes to whichever is closest. He doesn’t have to lie down but needs to stay until released with an “ok.” The exercise gives him a touchstone, in a sense. It’s one more tool to provide positive alternatives to shadow fixation and is useful.

A first for Rhys occurred a few weeks ago, on an ordinary Sunday evening. He had been out off-leash for much of the afternoon, sneaked in a dip in the creek and dripped off for a few minutes before coming in.  As he walked into the kitchen, he began to seize. He remained on his feet but lost control of his back legs and disconnected mentally, and he staggered aimlessly from room to room. Thankfully, this played out where he was safe from hurting himself and lasted about five minutes. He was back in touch mentally and in control of his mobility in the next five minutes. All appeared normal for the rest of the evening. The cause will likely never be known; this may have been a once-in-a lifetime incident for him.  For now, his vet advised “wait and see” management, so he will continue in foster care with that in mind.

Rhys has earned a new nickname; he goes by “Green Bean Boy” these days. Two measured meals a day and limited treats brought about a healthy weight loss after intake. But mid-day it seemed he was often anxious, pacing and whining. When his family began an afternoon feeding of green beans, a calmer dog emerged…nice to see.

Possibly better than three meals a day will be the opportunity to experience free-feeding in his next foster home. Rhys is moving this week. Having the eyes of an extremely experienced foster family on him over coming weeks will bring an additional perspective on this boy. Fingers crossed Rhys will make the most of all that shifting homes may bring. He remains a good boy, if an extraordinary one! To be continued…

Update 12/23/2019: “The vigor with which they play and the frequency has helped the 'chunky monkey' lose extra pounds and tone up muscle."

Santa knows where to find Rhys but may leave his present in the curbside mailbox.  With a year in foster care, Rhys is increasingly protective of his home and foster family; his “woof” is huge when a vehicle pulls into the driveway, or a new face appears around a corner.  Reindeer on the roof and a large man in red coming down the chimney would have definitely disrupted an otherwise peaceful Christmas night… 😊!

The last two months have been very active ones for Rhys.  The canine house guest who taught him to wrestle has found a skilled match in him.  The vigor with which they play and the frequency has helped the “chunky monkey” lose extra pounds and tone up muscle.  He has a waist now, a nicely rounded rear assembly and got a nod from his vet for fitness last week.

Rhys’s vet visit also clarified some issues requiring treatment.  He was infused with meds for ear infections once again and will follow-up with a flush in two weeks.  A urinalysis identified a very heavy struvite load and a mild UTI so appropriate meds were started.  After reviewing both medical and behavioral concerns, basic thyroid testing was done.  This led to a trial of thyroid supplement with the hope that it might diminish ear problems and ease his continuing reactivity to shadows. 

Rhys is a beautiful dog, Springer-smart and most obedient.  He’s been patient this year as appropriate strategies were implemented to improve his quality of life.   Some didn’t work at all; others brought limited benefit.  There remain some unexplored possibilities.  As 2020 begins, Rhys remains a work in progress with optimism for his future.  He’s lucky to have become a MAESSR boy and hopes to complete his new beginning in the coming year.

Update 10/17/2019: “What has changed is that Rhys has relaxed again, is fixing on shadows less again, and has played with the newcomer.”

At the end of a six-week trial, the new supplement seemed to get the credit for lessening anxiety in Rhys.  During that time, there was only one significant change for him; a canine houseguest had arrived. As with fosters in recent months, Rhys checked out the visitor with appropriate manners and then walked away. Though sharing space and toys went smoothly in the next few weeks, Rhys was noticeably more anxious.  Shadow fixation increased as did his need to have a ball to carry around or keep in his mouth as he rested. He wasn’t quite back to where he started, behavior-wise, but he lost ground. Then, he seemed to turn himself around…or the supplement kicked into its full potential…or both. 

The canine guest is still inhouse. The two dogs’ daily routine remains steady. Both are crated at night alongside one another. What has changed is that Rhys has relaxed again, is fixing on shadows less again, and has played with the newcomer. This is a first for him. Outdoors, he has shifted from resisting all interaction to being excited when the game is chase. Indoors, the houseguest has teased for play and has been successful in drawing Rhys out of his shell. He seems to understand for the first time that wrestling, rolling around, gentle mouthing, nipping, going belly up, pouncing on a playmate, or, being pounced on can be fun!  In the last week, the two dogs have played twice in the living room. They’ve worn one another out after a vigorous half hour each time. Their foster mom got to witness this…what a joy!  She would have reached for the video camera but for worry of disrupting the scene.

It’s hard to pinpoint what has brought Rhys to be this happier dog…the supplement? A perfect houseguest? Cooler weather? Extended time to build trust in foster care? We’ll never know. What’s worthy of celebration is his trend. Fingers crossed that this is lasting…


Update 09/14/2019: " At last, truly good news to share! There are tangible signs that Rhys's long-standing anxiety is lessening."  

At last, truly good news to share! There are tangible signs that Rhys’s long-standing anxiety is lessening.  With that, his obsession with shadows and dark, unlit corners seems to be diminishing.  At the least, it’s becoming easier to direct him out of situations that trigger upset.  Often, with a word or two, he can shift to positive activities now and he’s requiring fewer redirects in a day.  His new supplement may be enabling these changes.  It’s one that ramps up slowly in a dog’s system, so the next few weeks will be telling.  It would be wonderful if Rhys’s obsessive, compulsive behavior would completely extinguish but, at this point, his family is celebrating his small gains. 

So, what exactly do Rhys’s gains look like?  One is his ability to “give it.”  A red Kong ball has been his go-to comfort item since he arrived.  Despite continuing training efforts, placing his ball in the hands of his foster mom had never happened…until last week.  He still may think about that request; one can envision the gears turning in his head, but release happens most of the time now.  Rewarding with a treat has given way to a “good boy” and a hug.  Quietly handing his ball back to him, so he can “take it”, is also working well. 

Another gain is a calmer Rhys at mealtime.  Quite beyond normal excitement, Rhys’s behavior as prep was happening had been absolute frenzy.  He would race back and forth from the kitchen to his crate in the dining room and accompanied this with intense whining or “singing” as his family preferred to think of it.  At times a “sit” in the kitchen slowed him down, but a “stay” could last only a few seconds.  Self-control is beginning to happen.  Rhys still checks in the kitchen to assure himself that things are moving ahead.  But, when he goes in his crate and hears the command “stay”, he generally remains there, until his family walks in with his bowl. This makes mealtime so much easier for him and his family.

Another gain for Rhys…late afternoons when shadows are strongest in the house have been a predictable time for him to be reactive.  Crating through those hours had become part of his daily routine.  In the last week or two, rather than crating, Rhys has been asked to “go lie down” under the office desk where his family often needs to be.  He complies immediately and will stay there peacefully for as long as needed…a few minutes to a few hours.  He can look out and still see shadows but he’s able to ignore them…yeah!  This minimizes crate time and keeps him at his people’s feet…nice.

An aside, Rhys can be funny.  His facial expression is softening but he still tends to be a serious gent.  His eyes may be bright and engaging but there’s an overall intensity in his look.  That said, the other end of Rhys gives him away.  As he stares into one’s eyes, his tail is often fluttering as fast as it can go.  It’s a very short tail and largely hidden under his thick, lush coat, but it’s telling when noticed.

Thankfully Rhys is trending well.   Keep fingers crossed that this continues…. 

Update 07/12/2019: "He's been introduced to a calming cap and a flirt pole. To what extent either tool will benefit him long-term is still emerging but, suffice it to say, both get his immediate attention."   

Along with being smart, obedient and handsome, Mr. Rhys is quite consistent.  He’s learned a new trick and now rolls over to either direction with a hand signal.  His challenge was getting those hind legs to follow his mid-section.  Having mastered that, he rolls with gusto!

He continues to be so obedient.  He will honor a sit-stay for minutes while his foster mom walks out of sight.  When she returns and says “ok,” he will move.  This is a skill the residents haven’t accomplished, let alone other fosters.  Good boy!

Ever handsome with home grooming, the only scary step for him is nail trimming.  Muzzling offers him a distraction and gets that task done too.  He’s very patient with ear cleaning and having the flaps trimmed out.  Despite this, he’s developed infections in both ears and is being treated.  His favorite daily activity, creek-hopping, is off limits for now…but hopefully not forever. 

Rhys continues to expand his hiking repertoire on local trails.  When out alone with his foster mom, he pleasures her with a relaxed pace.  By contrast, when out with a group, he expects to lead the pack.  This makes for a lot of work on both ends of the leash, so fine-tuning his leash skills continues.

The first foster since Rhys’s arrival came recently in the form of a 25-pound, 10 month-old ESS.  This youngster knew no limits and had boundless energy.  Rhys met him with appropriate doggie manners and made no issue of sharing the coveted Kong collection.  Without meanness, Rhys successfully taught the little guy that there are limits to being in an elder’s face.  Both are comfortable now with sitting beside one another for bedtime treats...a sweet sight indeed.

Recently Rhys boarded twice for a few days each in different settings.  He was anxious in the busyness of the first setting; there were alot of new people and modest space to call his own.  The second setting offered him off-leash time outdoors daily, a spacious run and one new person to meet.  While home remains most comfortable, these visits were good for him to widen his experiences.

Lastly, Rhys has remained consistent with his reactivity to bold or subtle shadows, and, travel has been a persistent challenge for him.   Meds and lifestyle changes hadn’t brought benefit.  So, with input from MAESSR’s most experienced families and his vet, the decision was made to craft a new strategy.  He’s been weaned from all meds.  He’s been introduced to a calming cap (a see through cap that reduces visual stimulation) and a flirt pole (a pole, line and lure that provides exercise and a mental challenge).  To what extent either tool will benefit him long-term is still emerging but, suffice it to say, both get his immediate attention.  The cap has made travel easier.  The flirt pole gives him something positive to focus on and a new form of vigorous exercise.  It’s fun and is helping fine-tune his “give-it” skill.  Fingers crossed for all good news the next time around…he’s a great dog!

Update 05/12/2019:  “Rhys has a protective nature that warrants guidance by his people when meeting new folks.   As on the trail, with thoughtful introductions, he quickly figures out the good guys.

At times even dogs seem to notice and celebrate changing opportunities, even small ones.  That sums up Rhys in recent weeks.  He takes in all that’s new in typical Springer fashion.

Beginning with bunnies, spring has brought those critters to his world.  Sniffing through meadow grasses and brush offers his nose new stimulation but, it’s those rabbits which venture into the yard after dark that catch his attention most.  He spies them during his last trip out at night.  The fence limits pursuit so he barks up a storm as they race off, lest they think he didn’t see them.

With spring work at home underway, the garden wagon came out.  It seemed sturdy enough for a 60 pounder, so one afternoon Rhys was invited to check it out and hop in.  It took a few minutes of encouragement (which his family justified as training time) and, voila!  In one move, Rhys was up, over, and in.  He looked somewhat quizzical there, a bit excited but was still enough at ease to “sit.”  The next request was that he “down” which he did promptly.  “Stay” followed.  As the wagon began to move, he remained perfectly in place for several laps around the house.  This was quite a hoot!  Perhaps he’d done this before in a previous life, but his foster mom certainly hadn’t.  Her next thought is harnessing him to pull that wagon… J

Another recent opportunity was a day trip to the national forest with a small hiking group.  Rhys was the only dog in this group.  As is becoming predictable, once he met each person, he ignored them for the rest of the day.  He hiked four miles on his long line, keenly tuned to all around him and never once pulled. With the approach of another group that included a dog, he alerted quickly but accepted being stepped off the trail to let the others pass...nicely done.

Rhys has a protective nature that warrants guidance by his people when meeting new folks.   As on the trail, with thoughtful introductions, he quickly figures out the good guys.  Last week a dog- and cat-savvy house guest arrived at his door.  Initially there was a lot of barking…which the guest ignored.  Then there was a lot of sniffing…which the guest ignored.  Then Rhys went outdoors to shake off some energy.  When he came back in a few minutes later, the guest was OK with him and came and went for several days no further fanfare…good boy, Rhys.

Lastly and unchanged is Rhys’s worry about shadows.  Adjusting the dose of his original medication made no difference, so transition to a different med is underway.  With continuing effort, the hope remains that this behavior will disappear.  In the meantime, he’s active, happy and possibly a carting prospect!  To be continued…

Update 03/24/2019:  “He’s probably the smartest and most trainable foster his family has worked with.“

Rhysy-Peecy, as he’s known these days, continues to be a joyful work in progress.  He remains a confident boy but has softened beautifully with settling and routine.  He’s probably the smartest and most trainable foster his family has worked with.  Furthering his response to basic commands in terms of distance, duration, and distraction is moving ahead nicely.  He nudged his own bar up a notch yesterday.   While eyeing a fat gray squirrel that was only twenty feet away, he held a “stay” on the porch until released with an “OK;”  only then did he dash after it.   Huge!

With bonding his recall has become solid, so most off-leash time at home is outside the fenced area.  This offers him brush and briers to poke through and the creek to splash in.  He’s deviled by a spring that comes up within the creek and does his best to dig it out of the sandy bottom.   He comes in a wet, stinky dog most days but the physical workout is a good deal for him.

Indoors he’s learning to “sit pretty” and is close to balancing himself without a person’s hand to steady on; crossing his paws may come next.  He no longer needs the ramp to access the grooming table and will jump onto it when asked.  While still wary of nail trimming, he’s at ease with all else and enjoys his comb-outs.

Rhys continues to be an active, happy and healthy boy.  At his vet check this week, he weighed a pound up from last time.  (Those training treats may be the culprit …).  His appetite is robust and, with completion of a round of probiotics, his output is much improved.

What is keeping Rhys in foster care is his continuing obsession with shadows.  With longer and brighter spring days, his fixation is more noticeable than it was when he arrived.  He may stare at a wall or into a dark corner; at times he becomes somewhat frenzied by a wall hanging.  He can always, always be redirected with a calm “Rhys, come.”  Often he’s then settled at his family’s feet for a snooze; at other times, asking him to “go to kennel” is an appropriate choice.  Generally his crate door doesn’t even have to be closed; he typically will walk in and settle peacefully for a bit.  Part of helping Rhys through this behavior is being watchful of his activity and directing it to positive modes.  The remainder of helping him will come from medication.  To that end, his med was adjusted this week.  Fingers crossed this will bring benefit his way.  To be continued. . . .

Update 01/28/2019:  “Rhys is a really, really nice Springer…handsome, smart, active and easy to share one’s home with. “

Rhys…Rhys…Rhys…with almost two months in foster care, this gent has responded well to new opportunities.  Increased physical activity has led to a healthy loss of two pounds and better toned muscles. Training has widened from basic commands to serious leash work and shaping of trail manners. Grooming is now accomplished on a table, rather than the floor. His most helpful new skill is walking a ramp onto that table…yeah!  Red and black Kongs are still huge in his life but, with overall settling, they seem to be what they should be…that is, for fun, rather than for stress reduction. He still celebrates outdoor time but is a calm companion indoors; he’s most often snoozing at his foster mom’s feet these days, rather than in his crate. His self-confidence continues and is to be admired but, he’s developed a trust in his people. He looks to them for cues when his name is called much of the time now…very nice to see.
While this progress is wonderful to see, what hasn’t changed for Rhys is a fixation with shadows. On cloudy, overcast days, it’s barely noticeable. On bright, sunny days when shadows are everywhere, they worry him. At times he becomes quite animated, though never destructive. Most often what he does is to stare at a shadow. Either way, he’s uncomfortable and distracted. A consult with his vet led to an inexpensive daily medication that is often prescribed for this problem. All else will continue…exercise, training, and routine…to complement the med. He’ll meet with his vet again in about a month to assess progress.  This is treatable…fingers crossed.
Minor changes to Rhys’s diet have also been made. Two common supplements are dovetailing with his kibble toward improved output. He loves both and licks them off a spoon like treats.
Rhys is a really, really nice Springer…handsome, smart, active and easy to share one’s home with.  As earlier, the story of his new beginning continues.... 

Original:  “Rhys…Rhys…Rhys…pronounced ‘reese’ for those unfamiliar with Welsh spellings.“

Rhys…Rhys…Rhys…pronounced “reese” for those unfamiliar with Welsh spellings.  He’s a head-turning Pennsylvanian with copious tan and a thick, silky coat.  He’s a big boy, carrying 63 pounds on a well-proportioned frame.  He’s nimble and can rise to snatch a ball from a hand in a flash.  Sheer joy at being off leash puts him in high gear; it’s fun to watch him gallop big loops.  He has a wiggle that starts at the shoulders and ends at a very short tail.  He’s handsome and jovial.
This gent was surrendered to MAESSR by his original family whose changing work schedules diminished quality time with Rhys.  Long hikes with his people were no longer happening.  He continued to enjoy lots of outdoor time but not with them.  When he began to show some fixation on shadows, one thought was that it might stem from boredom.  At the least, more “people” time and purposeful activities were what the family wanted for him…a tough but loving decision to make.
Life in foster care is giving Rhys opportunity to adopt a new lifestyle.  His house- and crate training carried over from his original home and eased his start.  “His” crate quickly became his go-to for meals, naps and peaceful nights.  At treat time he learned to sit patiently beside two other Springers for his turn.  He also learned in this situation not to snatch…good boy!  His dog-to-dog manners remain a bit rough but, with guidance, he’s improving.  He’s confident amid soft-natured males and will mount to assert his position.  Initially when this was observed, brief time outs in his crate redirected his focus.  Now an “uh-uh” gets the desired response.  By contrast, outdoor time with the other dogs has been a breeze.  He either ignores them or takes up good-natured pursuit in a chase when someone else initiates it.
Rhys loves being outdoors.   Most days he clocks at least an hour of mixed activities without leaving home.  He has rock solid field instincts and goes nose-to-ground through varied cover, much of it bush and briar, with his foster mom trailing at the other end of a 25’ line.  The small creek is a magnet which he prefers to explore from mid-stream.  The depth is about chest high for him, but still…brrrrrr!    About a half-acre is securely fenced for off leash at home and offers more bunny brush to investigate.  Stick- and ball-throwing excite him there.  That he brings either back on his own terms is okay for now and gives him a good workout; he will chase and chew on his prize as long as someone will throw for him.  His leash manners are improving with trips to the town park where a paved path is available and there are people to meet.  Tomorrow he’ll join a small group of hikers on a 2-mile trail…another mix of new outdoor activity and new faces.   If Rhys misses a day of fresh air, he doesn’t bounce off the walls indoors, but the benefit of purposeful exercise for him shows.
Shortly after his arrival, it was time to visit a vet for basic services.  Rhys was comfortable in the waiting room and the exam room but wasn’t so sure when it came time for a blood draw.  A muzzle settled him and, as soon as the specimen was had, the restraint came off.  The vet who directed his services felt he was simply afraid and perhaps not very experienced in hospital settings.  He checked out well, health-wise.  Shadow watching was discussed as it had been observed in his foster home.  Given the low level of occurrence, the decision was made to watch and see what additional settling might accomplish.
At home other new situations have prompted some wariness.  One is the grooming table for nail trims; a muzzle steadies him there.  By contrast he loves being combed out on the floor and is good about ear care.   The noisy vacuum is also somewhat scary but freedom to retreat from it resolves that worry.
As he becomes increasingly secure, Rhys’ attitude is softening.  His play with toys has shifted from almost attacking them to mouthing them more gently.  One that squeaks is his favorite.  He side-swipes his people much less often and understands now that people have the right-of-way.  He no longer expects to be stepped over and will rise and step aside if he’s blocking a doorway.  He’s mastered some basic commands: “sit,” “down,” “wait,” “OK” and “go to kennel.”  He’s working on “stay,” “side” and outdoor ball return. Informally, he responds nicely to “this way” and “easy.”
The emerging impression of Rhys is that he needs a job and capable leadership from his people to shine. With training his natural instincts and intelligence might lead to success in one of many dog sports.  Nose work, tracking, dock-diving, rally obedience, traditional hunting, hunt tests and field trials come to mind.  He may be perfect for the owner with some sporting dog experience who is ready to work with a dog at a beginning level.  With such opportunity, Rhys could also be a loyal companion in one’s home.  If he sounds like a fit for you, please follow his story…to be continued!