Today is a very special day, as this date marks one year since we met Margarita, and brought her home as “Penelope / Penny,” our GSP Rescue of New Jersey foster dog. Although we didn’t officially adopt her until April, We picked March 4th – the day we met her – as Rita’s “Gotcha Day /Bday.” During her initial evaluation last year, it was estimated that Rita was 6 years old, which makes her approximately 7 years old now!
Unfortunately, Rita, found as a stray, had a bit of a rough start to life. She went through some health issues and operations during her first month with us – she was underweight, had to have 9 teeth pulled, a lumpectomy, was spayed, had “happy tail” from being in a crate, and treatment for Anaplasmosis. However, Rita was a trooper, and has had quite a healthy and active first year with us!
I promised myself that because Rita didn’t have great experiences in the first part of her life, I would introduce her to as many good things as possible, finding what activities make her most happy, and continuing to have her participate in those events. During our first year with Rita, she has been on 15 camping trips, and visited 8 new states including, DE, IN, IA, MD, NH, NY, OH, PA, and VA. Rita has even been out of the country (Canada) as well! She has visited 4 wineries, 5 breweries, 3 restaurants/bars, stayed overnight in 2 hotels, and shopped at Cabela’s and Lowe’s. Margarita has participated in 5k races, Barn Hunt, Nose Work, Lure Coursing, swim lessons, and agility. Margarita also completed training and is a registered Therapy Dog with The Alliance of Therapy Dogs, and has begun her “official” Therapy Dog visits at assisted living facilities and a local library’s children’s reading program. Most recently, Rita and I have earned our registration as a Reading EducationAssistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) team!
Brian and I were quite content with the size of our pack before meeting Margarita. However, Rita has filled an emptiness that we didn’t even know our family had. Not only has she been a great playmate for Hooch (who often was excluded by Cello and Lager during their play sessions), she has brought the utmost joy and love to Brian and I, as well as everyone she meets. People stop us continually and ask to meet her everywhere we go. My students at school – who have never met her – love her and talk about her constantly just from looking at her picture in my classroom. There is definitely something very special about this sweet soul, and we are extremely honored to have her as a family member!
Thank you to all of you who love and support Margarita both in-person, and from afar – we can’t say enough how much we appreciate it!!
Happy Gotcha Day, Señorita Margarita, we love you!!
Link to the public photo album of Rita’s first couple of weeks with us:
Not long after Margarita and I passed our test to become a registered Therapy Dog Team with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, I learned about a great program called R.E.A.D.(Reading Education Assistance Dogs). I decided this would be an excellent opportunity for us, so I began to study for the written test. One day before Margarita’s 1st Gotcha Day / 7th-ish Birthday, we received the great news that I passed, and we are now officially a registered R.E.A.D. team!
“The mission of the R.E.A.D. program is to improve the literacy skills of children through the assistance of registered therapy teams as “literacy mentors.”
The Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) program improves children’s reading and communication skills by employing a powerful method: reading to an animal. But not just any animal. R.E.A.D. companions are registered therapy animals who volunteer with their owner/handlers as a team, going to schools, libraries and many other settings as reading companions for children.
R.E.A.D. is the first and foremost program that utilizes therapy animals to help kids improve their reading and communication skills and also teaches them to love books and reading. It’s been growing around the world since November of 1999 when ITA launched it here in Salt Lake City. More than 3,500 therapy teams have trained and registered with the program and are going strong!
Today, thousands of registered R.E.A.D. teams work throughout the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Italy, Finland, France, Sweden, South Africa, Slovenia, Spain, Netherlands, Norway and beyond. “
Those of you who follow our Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter pages, know that Margarita cannot swim very well. When we saw her lack of confidence while in our lake, we decided that it would be beneficial to have a swim instructor evaluate her current swimming ability, and help her improve enough to feel comfortable swimming with Limoncello, Hooch, and Lager. We took her to Green Leaf Pet Resort, where we had taken Limoncello and Hooch in the past to swim during the winter months.
Green Leaf was very festive and ready for the Holidays!
Margarita’s instructor, Krystal, was so patient and kind!
With a little coaxing and a lot of patience, Rita was swimming with some guidance.
Margarita is definitely going to need some further instruction. We plan to continue to take her twice a month through the winter months in hopes to become a more confident swimmer this year.
Our time was 33:01 – we managed to shave off 56 seconds from our last race!
This was a great run, as the fall colors were absolutely amazing!
20% of our registration fee was donated to Freedom Service Dogs. Freedom Service Dogs is a nonprofit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by rescuing dogs, and custom training them for individual client needs. Clients include children, veterans, active duty military, and other adults. Their disabilities include autism, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Rita added another medal to her spot on our “Wall of Fame!”
The rescue we volunteer for, GSP Rescue of NJ, covers all of New Jersey, parts of New York, and assist other recognized out-of-state GSP rescues in urgent situations. In addition to re-homing GSPs, they also work with owners to help them with any issues they may have with them. In emergency situations, the rescue will also reach out to help English Pointers.
When an English Pointer rescue could not take a female English Pointer known as “Penelope,” she was on her way to being taken to a shelter when GSP Rescue of NJ offered to help. Although the GSP Rescue of NJ was willing to help this poor girl who was found as a stray, our foster homes were full, and there was no one available to foster her. Although we do not usually foster, we decided that we just couldn’t let this skinny pretty girl end up in a kill-shelter. On March 3, 2016, we committed to fostering Penelope so that she could begin her road to recovery.
She was transported to the rescue’s vet, and was examined. Penelope was completely emaciated, appeared to have had many litters, had a tumor on her neck, tested positive for Anaplasmosis (a tick-borne disease) and severely damaged and rotted teeth. She also had a cut on her tail and her belly. While at the vet, she was supposed to have teeth extractions, a lumpectomy, and also be spayed. The dental work took so long, that not all needed teeth could be pulled, and the lumpectomy and spay could not be performed due to the length of time she was under anesthesia. She had a total of 6 teeth pulled during her first surgery. The vet set her up with a future appointment for continuation of dental, her spay, and removal and biopsy of the lump on her neck.
On March 4, 2016, another GSP Rescue of NJ volunteer, Mandy, was nice enough to pick Penelope up from the vet and meet me half way to cut down on my 2 hour drive-time.
Penelope was a great passenger, and rested calmly for her ride to our home.
Once home, we introduced her to each of our fur-kids individually on lead by meeting out on the street and taking a short walk together. After the initial greetings were over, we gave her some time to explore the yard on her own before we settled her down in a crate.
In just the first night and day that we spent with Penelope, we got her to sit for a treat, and sit-stay for a picture. She did not appear to know basic commands, but was very food-driven and eager to please. She did wonderfully in her crate, ate well, and slept soundly.
We introduced her to our cat, Loki, and she seemed to be just fine with him.
We also introduced her to fellow rescue friends Jen and Grace’s male English Pointer (Penelope LOVED him!) as well as our friends’ two GSP puppies. She did amazing with all the dogs, and had a very fun-filled, exhausting day!
Penny had her second surgery scheduled for her lumpectomy, more teeth to be pulled, and her spay a few weeks later on March 29, 2016. We fell more in love with her as each day passed! Just a few days before her spay, she went into heat, so the vet opted to put off her spay once again. Her lumpectomy and dental surgeries went well.
Her lumpectomy went well, and the biopsy came back that the lump was benign!
Thirteen days later, when we got home from Penny’s suture removal, Brian asked me if I wanted a glass of wine to celebrate. I asked, “Celebrate what?” Brian said, “Our newest family member!” After tears of joy, hugs, and celebration, we renamed her Señorita Margarita (Rita for short)!
Rita’s third surgery was for her spay. The good news is that her spay procedure went well. At the time of her spay, we opted to have an additional procedure called Gastropexy in order to avoid bloat (a common cause of death in pointers) in the future.
Thank goodness we opted for that extra procedure, because it was during that part of the surgery that our vet discovered that Rita had lesions on her spleen as well as a separated spleen – commonly seen in a dog that has suffered blunt-force trauma from being kicked. Although this was heartbreaking news to hear, it was during this discovery that our vet also noticed a mass on her spleen. Had we not opted for this additional procedure, the mass as well as a part of her past would have gone undetected. An aspiration of the mass did not give enough information to determine a diagnosis, so Rita will have an ultrasound done in May to explore the mass and other organs to determine our course of action. She is recovering nicely from her spay and is being extra-spoiled. However, we ask that you please still keep her in your thoughts, as we do not yet know the complete outcome of the mass on her spleen. Thanks to all of you for your support and kindness through our fostering as well as our foster-failure of this angel!!
Well, we are proud to admit we are complete failures. Foster failures that is! Remember Penelope our foster-kid? (If not, click HERE to read her story) Well, she quickly ingrained herself into our hearts and home…and we could not imagine our pack without her! We have officially adopted her, and her new name is Señorita Margarita (“Rita” for short!)