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the newest member of the scruffies pack

as most of you know, we had to say goodbye to sweet, old man morley last week.  as he struggled with a brain tumor, i’d noticed several weeks ago that he wasn’t wagging his tail as much.  it had nothing to do with pain, but more from confusion, and perhaps a lack of interest in life.  so … knowing that nothing on this earth made morley happier than another terrier (or any dog for that matter), i made a move which couldn’t have been more perfect.

meet merrick …


you met him first here, but i wanted to be sure about this little goober before i made any formal introductions.


here’s a little about his story …

some weeks ago, back in february, someone sent me a Kijiji ad for something … while there i plugged in “wirehaired” and came up with an ad for this little guy.   as most of you know, all of my dogs have been rescues or from shelters.   i do NOT condone buying your dog off of Kijiji or Craig’s List, and certainly not from a pet store.   but after a little digging on the poster’s other ads i could tell that this boy was being used as a stud dog for what i can hope is only a small puppymill or barnyard breeder.

i’d initially sent the ad to another friend who had talked about getting a family dog but was told they’d changed their mind … and i just let it go.  i had one dog (Matea) with a back injury, and the other (Morley) with seizures … i couldn’t handle another special case. but as a few weeks passed and morley stopped wagging, i found myself thinking about this little, 6 yr old guy again.

these are the Kijiji photos …

after a forty-five minute drive, we arrived at the farm with morley in tow.   the wife and their 8 yr old daughter brought the dog out while the farmer talked a bit to us.  the dog’s belly never left the ground and his head was hung low.   at the feet of the daughter, his eyes darted wildly from the ground to the girl, to the parents, to the ground again … utterly terrified.  if anyone shifted on that freezing, slushy laneway, he ducked even further and skittered to the side, clearly expecting a firm boot.

from the moment i laid eyes on him i knew he was the worst fear case i have personally seen … and i knew we had to get him out of there.   with his belly still dragging on the ground and his tail tucked so tightly i wasn’t sure he even had a tail, we walked him down the drive through icy slush and water … only with morley did he perk up a little … but just a little. i handled his ears, his mouth, played with his paws just to see how he was … i’ve never encountered more fear-based submission before.   in fact, when i first went to pet him, i truly believed he was going to bite me.  as it turned out, i even got a kiss when i picked him up for the second time.

we walked him down the long drive several times … partly so that my partner and i could talk, but mostly to get the hell away from his abusers and get some kind of an idea what he was like.

i didn’t try to negotiate a better price … i was too sick to my stomach.   i paid $125 to get him out of there.   now, i do realize this is a slippery slope … giving my hard-earned money to these people to get this dog out of that situation, but i KNEW — given his incredible fear — that no one else was going to do it.   he was going to end up dead or — at best — sold to another breeder … and this little guy deserved a lot more than that.

during the drive home, i was literally shaking and working hard not to throw up … i was so upset.  partly from fear of not knowing what we had just gotten ourselves into, but mostly because the thought of me contributing to a sale-for-profit for a dog is utterly sickening to me.

once home, we took him and matea on an hour-long pack-walk. this set the tone, and after a few weeks of careful and highly-choreographed interactions, these two are well on their way to forging an incredible relationship as he slathers her with kisses on a routine basis.

besides having to neuter merrick, he came with a full load of roundworms, and a raging urinary tract infection that has required two rounds of antibiotics so far.  he’s also on natural remedies for crystals and the infection — hydrangea and colloidal silver — as well as other much needed supplements along with his raw diet.  the scabs across his body have healed, and because i was able to secure his last vaccination records we weren’t forced to  bombard his system with those as well.

and today — four weeks later — he’s pretty healthy … although his ribs and spine are still a little too prominent.


he’s absolutely the worst fear case i have personally encountered.   they always say that you get the dog you need, not necessarily the one you want.  merrick is totally that case.  i will learn much from this incredible boy as i work to build his confidence in the world and with people.  honestly, once this boy is rehabbed i’ll have personally dealt with just about every dog issue out there except for severe people-aggression.  so, we both have much to learn, even though i can’t imagine a better place for him.

i have also discovered that balls are this boy’s doorway …


if you have a ball, you have his attention, no matter what’s going on in the scary world around him.



in fact, most of my photos of merrick in these early days do, and will, involve a ball.  even to get him to pose for the camera, a ball is required to overcome his fear of the shutter … because he really is pretty camera shy.



he’s also got the most wicked underbite ever, which often gives the impression he’s smiling …



but i know this little guy is definitely smiling when he deals with matea … he adores her and acts like her long-lost puppy.  i wasn’t able to capture his tongue in the shot below … it’s too fast … but he definitely loves giving kisses.


so, that’s merrick.  you’ll be seeing more of him as the weeks and months unfold, and he becomes braver in this bright new world … a world full of balls.


and just a final note on buying your puppy from a farm … please know that just because it’s a farm in the country does NOT necessarily mean that your pup has enjoyed it’s country life.  and i can assure that its parents certainly aren’t!   in most cases, these “farm” pups are the product of puppymills … bred purely for profit with zero regard for health, genetics and socialization … and definitely no regard for animal welfare.  dogs are nothing more than agriculture … cheap livestock that can turn a quick profit for the farmer.  please, please, PLEASE don’t be fooled.  and please do your research.

for more information, check out these links (just a few of many): … of note is #1 on this list, which applies to the farm where merrick came from.

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  • BarbaraWhat a bittersweet story. I like how sweet comes after bitter. It’s so obvious that you made the right choice under the circumstances. Good for you for giving that baby a home and a life. It’s your heart taking these pictures and its obvious.ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie Graf-VocatThere is not limit to so-called breeder’s cruelty… Thank God there is no limit to big hearts and dog lovers like you too! I rescued dogs from so-called breeders as well, and to witness the way they’ve been used, without any proper care and love, is so revolting. Dogs are such amazing creatures, learning to trust and be happy again even after having been mistreated… Merrick had surely come a long way thanks to you!ReplyCancel

  • Suzanne Watkinsgreat photos xxx thanksReplyCancel

  • Sandy & RykerYou are rackin’ up the good Karma for saving this little guy. He looks tons better since you got him. There is light in them eyes!ReplyCancel

  • Want to take better photos of your dog? - Dogasaur[…] Dog photography takes time and patience.  Even amateur photographers like you and me who simply want to take better pictures of our dogs can do these simple things to improve our dog photos. […]ReplyCancel

  • illonaTHANK YOU, everyone … for your words of support and encouragement … and for sharing this journey with me. i do post more regular updates of the little guy on my flickr stream, but will make an attempt to do so here as well.

    thank you again, all.

  • jeffIllona, Bravo!ReplyCancel

  • Tracey MitfordWOW!!!! What a story, what a cutie!! You did good by giving Merrick the home that he deserves. I love your photography as well. I am thinking of going into pet photography and you have inspired me. Take care and look forward to seeing more pictures of Merrick.ReplyCancel

  • SBellCongrats on the new furry family member, condolences on the passing of your sweet little old man.

    I know Merrick will be so happy with you, I hope you report the monsters who did this to him…ReplyCancel

  • Caroline LangdellI’ve only just come across your blog thanks to Jo at but I just love the photos!
    What a beautiful little dog he is and what a brilliant name (Merrick was my maiden name before I got married last year)!
    I know its hard to justify giving money to such people but at least you have managed to save this little guy and hopefully spread the word about the awful practice of puppy farming.ReplyCancel

  • SqueakDog Pet PhotogThis is why I’ve chosen to photograph animals and not people-because animals are typically nicer than most people!!! Seriously, what is WRONG with some people in this world? I think you are an incredible person for rescuing Merrick. He is a beautiful soul, and seems really understand how much you’ve done for him. I wish you continued success with him, and I LOVE the photos-you’d never know he was camera shy 🙂ReplyCancel

  • ursula sooleyBLESS YOU, for rescuing this little guy and for your informative and painfully accurate portrayal of these so called breeders. For having the courage to inform and educate so many via your blog. I commend and admire
    your effort as well as you work.
    Your photos are superb! And Merrick looks joyful now.ReplyCancel

  • tamelaso sorry about morley. i loved seeing his photos. merrick already looks like a brand new scruffy guy. can’t wait to see more of him!!ReplyCancel

  • SylviaIt never fails to amaze and horrify me that people are able to mistreat animals like this. Merrick is a lucky pup to have found such a happy, safe home, and like Ashely said, he looks like a completely different dog. He looks HAPPY!ReplyCancel

  • andreait never fails to move me how dogs and people find each other when they need one another the most. i have no doubt that you and merrick will learn a lot from one another…and will do so with an abundance of joy and love. i love the photos of this little guy…can’t wait to see more. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Molly Kenefickillona, I am so sorry to know that Morley passed, but he had such a wonderful life in your family, surrounded by love and support and full of adventure.
    Congratulations on Merrick! I’ll be waiting with bated breath to know more about his/your journey.
    Molly in OaklandReplyCancel

  • MargaretMerrick definitely lucked out when you answered his ad and Morley got his dog! Keep up the great work!ReplyCancel

  • LizStories like these hurt me – and they continue to because there are so many more out there that we don’t even know about. You are such wonderful people for rescuing Merrek and I know he will have the best life. He already looks a million times better than his “ad” photo and I am noting his relaxed tone and posture. Welcome to the new scruffy, let there be only love and hugs from now on in your life.ReplyCancel

  • MichelleAch! I know what you mean about the circumstances being a slippery slope, but personally I have no doubt you made the right decision. Sometimes you just need to act for the one, and not for the whole, and your gut told you that was needed in Merrick’s case. There is already such a sparkle in his big brown eyes and I can’t wait to see how he evolves in this happy place. Congrats on the new add!ReplyCancel

  • AshleyThis dog could not have asked for a better owner and while you had to give money to those horrible people to save him, I’d have done the same thing. People like that make me sick! He looks like a whole new dog from those photos the owners took, you can just tell he was sick and not in a good place, now he looks so happy and fluffy and the photo with Matea is just adorable! Doggy love 🙂ReplyCancel

  • LaurenI read your blog mostly for the dog photography inspiration, but I wanted to comment on your moving post! It’s ironic that we don’t always get the dog we think we want, but definitely the one we need. It looks like he is going to have a great life! Thanks for sharing his story…ReplyCancel

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