The Poopy Puppy Blues

This is Milagro. If you were in his shoes, might you not be having a few accidents too?

This is Milagro. If you were in his shoes, might you not be having a few accidents too?

God bless everybody out there who does animal rescue! I’m sure anyone reading this blog has done more than their share and taken in many homeless animals who would have otherwise ended up . . . well, we won’t go there. So you all well know that it is impossible to take a rescue animal without the “baggage” that they bring with them. There is probably not a rescue animal alive that doesn’t have some trying habit (but then, don’t we all?!) that comes as a result of past abuse, trauma, or just plain neurosis from being on the streets, lost, abandoned, or whatever. If you take a rescue, you know you’ll be working through a few things. Period.

Meet Milagro. That means ‘Miracle,’ you know, and his current state of affairs and new home truly reflect the miraculous. Milagro is only about 1 year old and wound up, Lord knows how, in a kill shelter in rural Colorado. Through the “co-incidences” of life (NOT — remember? “Co-incidence” means things that happen together?), my dear friend Stephanie and her husband Alan saw him on the internet and knew immediately that they had to go get him just as soon as possible. Fortunately, a small-dog rescue organization had found him at the kill shelter, taken him out, and placed him in a foster home. The rest is history, if short, thus far. Milagro has been in his new home, with his almost identical Chihuahua sister Tiki, for about a month now.

So all is well, you might say. End of story. Well, yes, and Milagro definitely has his forever home and thinks Stephanie hung the moon and stars and is glued to her 24/7. All of that is true enough. But, as with any rescue, and as we have stated above, there are a few bumps to work through. Milagro poops on the carpet regularly. A problem. He knows he’s not supposed to. He’s taken out several times a day (and night), and is doing well with peeing out of doors. But he carefully waits until he is back inside and Stephanie has her back turned, for about 3 seconds, to poop.

Knowing I’ve had a similar situation with my newest rescue of six months, Tucker the Chiweenie, Stephanie called me this morning wringing her hands a bit over the whole affair and asking for advice. She said, “Well it doesn’t seem like it has upset YOU that much, so I thought maybe you could help me.” True, but Tucker’s rug-pooping has not been quite as consistent as Milagro’s, plus he is older and was never an inside dog (he told me), so he just needed some regular house-training and is improving by the week. His indoor poops are now few and far between and usually only in the middle of a night that he deems way to cold to step outside the dog door.

Anyway, back to Milagro. I gave Stephanie the few tips I could think of but told her I would check in with the little guy too, to see if I could glean any insight that might help the two of them work out a solution. After an appropriate introduction, etc.:

“Milagro, why do you poop in the house when you know you’re not supposed to?”

“Because it gets attention.”

“But you know you’re not supposed to and that it is upsetting to your people, so that kind of attention is not the most fun kind that you could be getting.”

(He shows me that it’s the only kind he ever got before. He conveys that he never got much of any kind of attention — or, horrors, even decent food —  except for when he pooped in the house.)

“Oh, Milagro, I am SO sorry! You were not in a happy household, were you??

(He can’t even relate to what I mean by “happy,” so first I show him what that means, and that his new household is an example.)

“That will never happen here. You will always have the best loving attention and all the healthy food you want and need, and you will learn to poop outside and will get even MORE attention — and treats! — when you do that. Stephanie will help you learn about how to do that, and you will get even more wonderful attention than you ever dreamed of. What do you think?”

“She has me in a cage now.” (He must be referring to a child’s playpen Stephanie is setting him in, right next to her, when she knows a poop is due but he hasn’t done it yet. So I show him this, and what the intent is, and that he will be rewarded when he poops, whether in the playpen or the next time she takes him outside.)


“Do you get it?”

(He seems to. But I also can tell that he is going to need to be re-patterned about this and to have time to absorb all the new nuances and meanings around pooping properly.)

“Thank you, Milagro, for talking to me about this. You are a particularly precious puppy, and you will be with Stephanie and Alan and Tiki and Luna (the cat) forever. You need have no worries. Stephanie will help you work through this, and there is time.”

Thus concludes our report. And, after all, Milagro has only been in his new home for one month, and he IS only 1 year old. Gheez, if he were a Golden Retriever we could bet on at least 3 more years of hysteria, complete with possible poopy problems as well!

So, all it’s going to take is careful vigilance on Stephanie’s part, along with her daily reminding him, mentally, of all the benefits of pooping outside (not to mention the special treats for when that happens). Milagro will do fine. And,  Stephanie, if you are reading this, huge blessings and thanks to you and Alan for taking in this precious little guy and saving his life. As an elderly neighbor of mine used to say, “God will put a star in your crown for that!”

3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Stephanie said,

    Leta, Thanks soooooomuch for speaking with my Poopy Puppy and helping him understand what is intended here. Following your advice, he is getting lots of treats each time he poops outside, and he is much more accepting of his playpen today. He has not befouled the house today and seems quite content. He even pooped outside despite the 50-mile-per-hour winds we have right now. Your communications are the best and really help us pet moms when we want to yank ALL of our hair out! Thank you!

  2. 2

    Update on the Poopy Puppy!

    I am delighted to say that after Leta spoke with Milagro (the Poopy Puppy), we have made HUGE strides in his potty training. I have Milagro on a strict feeding and outing schedule. About 15 minutes after he eats, we go outside. I tell him, “If you go poop now, you can run around the house freely. If not, you have to sit in my lap or be in your playpen.” Most days, he does not poop the first time out. He opts to sit in my lap. We go out again at 45 minute intervals. Once he poops, I reward him lavishly with praise and special treats he gets only when he poops. He LOVES them. He’s soooo proud when he poops outside … he dashes to the door and waits for me to give him his treats.

    So far, since Leta’s conversation, Milagro has a perfect poop record. All poops have been happening outside. Sometimes he resents the playpen just a bit and stands on his back feet in protest (front feet on the playpen rail), but I remind him that he will have another opportunity to poop outside in 45 minutes. I then ask him if he would rather sit in my lap or sit in his playpen. Most days he chooses my lap, but sometimes he will accept the playpen and go to sleep. I also throw in some of his favorite chew toys (like horse hooves) and he seems content.

    Slowly, he seems to be “getting it” about going outside. I am so proud of him. Thank you Leta for clarifying things for Milagro, and for me. Yay! Poop perfect!

    • 3

      Wow, thanks for the feedback, Poopy Puppy! I so love to hear about what happens after I talk to an animal, especially if there is an, ahem, “problem,” to be dealt with. it sounds like half the battle has been won with your own vigilance and positive reinforcement, so keep up the good work! Leta

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