The Astro Chronicles

As if life could get any crazier, Astro has been with me for almost two weeks now. He is my major buddy-pal and an absolute sweetheart, but we are deep into training to help us get off to a strong start and moreover, to try and remedy some of the guy’s fears and stresses after three years in a Pennsylvania puppy mill.  I am capturing Astro’s first year here in a 365 days set over on flickr, updated with his progress daily. His big accomplishments in our first 12 days together: No more accidents in the house… he learned to go up and down the stairs right away… after some training, he now goes out the side door to do his business by himself … he will “sit” very nicely… and he will leap our dining room steps down on demand like an agility champ. Our big challenge: After some initial success taking walks, he has become super afraid of being outside and just shakes like a leaf when we try to walk on a leash. We think he may have been in a cage or very confined quarters most of his life. I’m working with him several times a day to help him overcome the fear. I am confident we will make good progress, but it will take time.

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  1. Michael in Worthington says

    Glad to hear about the progress. He sounds like such a sweetie! You’re his hero for giving him a real home!

  2. sablemable says

    Pam, all of our furkids have been rescues, but the one that was abused the most was one of my female Rotties, Diamond. We think she had been beaten with a leash and was so scared of it that she’d get down and crawl on her belly. What I did in her situation was take her out every day for a few minutes, put the leash on her and when she started belly crawling, I’d have her get into the sit position and comfort her (petting her gently and talking softly to her). Then I’d take the leash off and we’d go in. I also made a lot of happy sounds about going for a walk After a while she looked forward to going out with the leash on. These poor little souls don’t know who to trust when they come into a home, but you are showing love to Astro and he senses it. He will soon learn that you, the leash and the yard can be trusted thoroughly. Good job!

    • pam kueber says

      Sablemable – thanks for that advice! I’ll work in your tips. I’m so happy to hear that it IS possible to get beyond this, I was kind of worried. And thanks, Susan, for your support. Hey, I used to say “some people save dogs” and “some people save pink bathrooms.” We can do both!

  3. Susan Croft says

    Hi, found your website a few weeks ago and love it. Yeah to you for saving Astro! I am a groomer and see many puppy mill dogs and some are so damaged. With love and patience they are the best pals. The puppy mill situation is horrible (don’t get me started!). Good luck to you. I’m renovating my pink bathroom so your website has been great. Thanks again!

  4. says

    Um, is that a *vintage* doggie sweater? That last photo is hilarious. I’d say the blessings are mutual in this new relationship — he got rescued and you got a new buddy to get you away from the computer sometimes (pot calling the kettle black on that last bit…maybe I need an Astro). Big love to you both.

    • pam kueber says

      Ha, Margaret. Funny you should ask because I have an idea for a doggy sweater product already. Trying to convince Denise (of miniature schnauzer- and Astro-rescue fame) and also is an artist who makes beautiful sewn creations, to make the prototype. Another one of pammy’s gazillion ideas. I need nine lives — like your cat Jack!

  5. Alice says

    Good for you Pam! We have a Springer Spaniel that we rescued and we are in love. Astro is so lucky to have a good home with patient, attentive you! Question: when Astro lets himself out to use the “outhouse” how do you keep your floors and furniture clean when he lets himself back in? (We have a hard stop at the back door so we can wipe off paws; I’d love a new system!)

  6. RetroSandie says

    Congrats Pam on beginning a life of love with Astro! BTW, I love the name you chose. Perfect! Best of luck but I am sure you will win him over. Little by little his doggie personality will come out proving your patience so worthwhile.

  7. Barbara says

    I love the pic of him in the comfy bed. It’s probably the first he’s ever had.
    Thank you for taking in a rescue…it’s so rewarding.

  8. handyandy says

    Astro’s ‘real’ life has begun now that you have him. A lucky dog, indeed. We adopted a severely abused cat several years ago….the emotional scars have faded, but will never be gone. Hope your luck is better~

  9. Peter in Jax says

    Pam – the key is to truly be patient, which it sounds like you are. Abused dogs have been conditioned to respond in what we would consider to be a negative way. Reconditioning the response works in time, but there are times when the old response comes to the fore, particularly when the dog is stressed. We have two Catahoula Leopard Dog mixes and the small one was an incredible challenge that way. She is now delightful, but the does revert to old behaviors at times when she is afraid or unsure.

  10. 52postnbeam says

    Was the name Astro influenced by any chance by the terrier Asta from the Thin Man movies? Your little guy is adorable. Love the bed, the sweater. I took in a feral cat, Julius – he’s been with me for a year and I’m just barely able to sneak in a pet every few weeks. He never bonded with people and is so fearful (though he loves my other cat). Time and patience… rescue animals are grateful for the love.

    • pam kueber says

      @52pnb, he named after the jetson’s dog, astro. @peterinj, thanks for the vote of confidence. i’ll tell you, i had to call denise today for a pep talk. right now, my new tack is to let the little guy chill so he gets used to us on his own terms. we’ll feed him well, keep taking him outside on the leash for just 5 minutes at a time, but otherwise – take it slow.

  11. Jeff says

    Hi Pam, what a cutie! You will do well, and they are a smart breed, too.

    Just keep it consistent with him, and slow as you suggest, and it will take time and patience.

    Funny, my calico (one of three cats) is named Astro! Picked her up under a leaf outside in a driving rainstorm, was only 1 month old- now 8 months and well trained!!

    Don’t worry about your Astro’s shaking, you are probably right about him being daunted by the great outdoors- this will pass.

    Congratulations, and kudos for saving our furry friends.

  12. sumac sue says

    That blue and white sweater means Astro is a Kentucky Wildcats fan, right? Since you have Kentucky roots and all. How good of you to take in Astro and love him. He will give you lots of love in return.

  13. sablemable says

    About keeping the floors, etc. clean from filthy paws. I taught my Shelties the command, “We have to wipe our feet,” and they sit and present paws on command (“Right paw, Max). it’s easier to wipe off snow than mud, in which case I keep a container of clean water near the door. Again, I make happy sounds and the Boys love it. They also get a bit of dog treats as a reward.

  14. says

    Aww bless his heart! Thank you so much for adopting a rescue, there are so many that need good homes! Also bless you for taking on a mill animal, they are sometimes quite difficult to bring back to normal and it takes a lot pf patience on the part of the owner to help them along! He’s just so precious!!

  15. says

    Hi, Pam – Thanks for sharing your doggie stories with us! I was just thinking about your notes concerning Astro’s shaking when you take him on walks. I have some suggestions, although remember advice (theoretically) is only worth what you pay for it! I have always loved animals, but I have also really learned a lot from watching Cesar Milan of Dog Whisperer fame, and of course patience is right up there at the top of his list too. However, I have also tried some of his simple methods on my cat, as well. Such as, introducing her to an object, letting her sniff it, etc., before using it on her, items like a nail clip, or even a Kleenex. With Astro, I was just thinking about his leash, which you could leave lying around with his toys, so that he has time to check it out and get used to its appearance and smell, etc. Left with his toys, he may also begin to learn that it belongs to him (sort of), and associate it with fun. Also, being a California kid, I can relate to his possible fear/surprise/confusion about snow! Maybe he never saw it or felt it before you adopted him; it’s possible. If you think that’s true, maybe you could bring some inside and leave it in a bucket or tray on the floor where he can check that out, too (maybe he’ll end up drinking it; that would be good too!) I can’t tell how big he is, but if he isn’t too big to carry, you could also consider going on “walks” by carrying him — in a pack, or something. Or, get him used to a toddler-sized wagon with his favorite blankie in it, and take him for walks in that until he feels better about being on the ground. Good luck with your dear new sentient being. Regards, Stephanie

  16. Denise C says

    I always wanted a dog with a beard… he was going to be called Sea Dog… instead, I ended up fostering ex-racing greyhounds and Seamus somehow ended up staying permanently. I adore him and am ridiculously excited that the little grey patch under his chin is slowly turning into a full-on beard (though very, very short and nowhere near as glorious as Astro’s!)

  17. pammyg says

    Your baby is so cute! I feel your pain with the problems walking Astro (The Jetson’s is my favorite cartoon, btw). I have a Missouri puppy mill Shih Tzu named Porter. He was three when I got him, couldn’t walk on leash, petrified of everything, not housebroken, didn’t do stairs. It’s really starting from scratch when you get one of these little guys isn’t it.

    Now that he’s been here 3+ years, my Porter is so much happier and content, not so afraid anymore. And he’s housebroken, so no more belly bands! The biggest problem is he’s still afraid of storms, mostly lightning flashes, which unfortunately includes the camera flash so I can’t take his picture. These send him to the dark inner bathroom, shaking for hours. I think this may be a common mill dog problem.

    I’m sorry I don’t have any ideas for you to improve the walking with Astro, just writing to give support to your choice to bring Astro into your life. with love and patience, hopefully he’ll come around.

    ps, love your blog, thanks!

    Best wishes,

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