Sunday, June 17, 2012

Norway's Big Adventure

Norway belongs to my friend Susan, who also owns Bridgett.  He's a failed foster dog from National English Shepherd Rescue.  Norway was one of the over 200 English Shepherds rescued from horrible conditions in Montana during NESR's Operation New Beginnings in 2009. More information about this rescue can be found in this post at Raised by Wolves blog**.  

Norway was estimated to be 5 or 6 years old at the time of rescue. His growth was stunted by poor nutrition, and he was pretty much a feral dog in need of taming.  He was essentially pulled out of a hellhole, as detailed by the charges Yellowstone County leveled against his original owner.  For those of strong heart and stomach, Smartdog's weblog archive has a post that includes excerpts.  Norway was one of the dogs that hadn't made as much progress in the mass foster care situation the dogs experienced in Billings.  Instead of being adopted, he needed more time in foster care.  When Susan first got Norway in September 2009, all he did was sit in a single corner of her kitchen.  Just being guided outside to take care of bodily functions was a challenge for the dog.

Now, over two years later, Norway has improved a lot, although he will probably never be what most people consider a "normal" dog.  He mostly stays in her backyard, because he is still a flight risk.  When they do go out, she takes her other English Shepherd along as a role model.  Susan thought it was time to expand Norway's horizons a bit more.  Our outing at the reservoir was going to be the first time he had ever been in the woods.

Wow...Norway has TWO leashes!

Although obviously apprehensive at first, Norway did well.  He didn't shut down, and he eventually calmed  enough to start sniffing and investigating.  Having Chandler and Bridget around probably helped a lot.  They were much too busy having fun to take much notice of Norway's nervousness.

When we got to the reservoir, Norway did not want to approach the water.  I suspect he'd never seen that much of it in his entire life.  He also seemed upset that Chandler was launching himself into the reservoir to fetch his retrieving bumper.  I'm not sure if the splashing commotion of Chan rocketing into the water was the problem, or just that Norway thought Chan was a bit crazy to be leaping so enthusiastically into all that wetness.  Regardless, Norway got used to Chan's hydrophilic quirks, and managed to settle down near the water, if not very close to it.

Here we all are at the water's edge.  Really, Norway has no idea how much FUN this stuff is.

The final challenge of the day was Norway's first stream crossing.  Considering his reaction to the reservoir, this was guaranteed to be interesting.  Sure enough, he balked, even though Chandler and Bridget had variously forded, hurtled, and even wallowed in the stream several times before Susan attempted to cross with Norway.  As bribery is not an option with a dog not motivated by food or toys,the first crossing required a few leash tugs.  However after the first experience, Norway quickly gained in confidence, and crossed the stream several times.

Mom says this is a BIG THING.  I can't believe this is the first time he's ever gotten his feet wet.
You miss out on so much without wet feet!

By the time we got back to the cars, Norway looked tired, but more confident.  Both Susan and I decided the hike had been a success.  Next time, we're thinking about experimenting with a long line so Norway can have more freedom.

** For those interested in more information about the mass English Shepherd Rescue and Operation New Beginnings, I suggest reading the series of posts about the incident on Raised by Wolves blog.  To find them scroll down the right column of the blog to below the "Older Posts" section.  They are listed under the heading "Montana English Shepherd Mass Rescue: Old Posts and Links"


  1. Wow, he looks SO much like Chuck (who also has ongoing fear issues), they must be very closely related.

    Love to see stories of successes like this!

  2. Yes he does, and not a little like Maddy. All dropped out of the same family bush.

  3. First of all, as an ONB dog Norway belongs to us all, I am just his primary cargiver : ) He has come soooo far. Thank you Jean for all the documentation you do for all our dogs, and for cheering on the especially challenging memebers of our ES family. Thank you for Norwy's first hike. Who'd a thunk? Thank you, Susan

    1. I have to say ..Hats off to Norway's handler Deb Palmer at the Metra. She was one of the first lines of "taming' the dogs she was assigned too. And she had many....Norway would not have come as far as he has if not for her. Thank you to all the volunteers! Susan Picchioni ONB Norway

  4. This is one of those stories about rescue dogs that makes my head shake when I am reminded of the kind of conditions these poor creatures were living in. I admire the work and time the NESR group and many others have done in order to ensure these dogs can have as much of a normal life as possible.

    He certainly seems like he really tried to enjoy this outting. Good for you both!

    Great post Jean.