Nori was born in March 2002 and lived in one of the biggest german puppy mill at the Lower Rhine.
Some day in late fall 2006 Nori was given to a animal welfare organisation. Her litters were to small and also wasn't profitable enough because of a severe immune disorder. Unfortunately her life of suffering didn't end up at this point. For Nori an odyssey through five forster homes began. None of those foster families were able to handle this dog. Nori was rated as dangerous for humans because of her severe behavioural problems. Finally Nori came to something like a gathering point in Lower Saxony. There she lived in a outdoor enclousure until May 2007.
That's when Nori changed the animal welfare organisation and should be taken to Hesse. Using heavy sedatives it succeeded to put the dog into a transport box and transfered her. She came to a tamporary foster home where she should stay until they would have decided about her destiny. Her path was clear actually: a not to socialize, sick and absolutely mentally disturbt breeding bitch. not placeable and that finally mean the end.
But coincident and destiny whished for her last foster home was at a good friend of mine. That's how i met Nori and from the first second on I knew: This dog has to come with me. It's destiny. It was not a hard way to receive Nori. This dog wasn't placeable and nobody ever would take her. In May 2007 she finally came to us.
Nori! A very huge, brown Labrador girl from a puppy mill with official breeding papers [editor's note: NHSB, FCI], what besides is a peculiarity, but for me never was interesting. A heavy, sagging teats. Below the eye a still gaping wound with scarring. A severe immune disorder, inflamed and watery hanging lids and a sagging spine.
No beauty queen and branded by a life full of deprivations, pain and mental agonies. Around her neck a thick bulging scar from her steel loop. The scar even still festered a bit. The soul completely dead. The eyes sightless, resigning and blunt. Always alerted and always suspicious. Her paws being always on the go.
A very hard time began. Even though Nori followed me wherever I went and allowed me to hesitantly touch her, my husband and my at these days 20 year old daughter had no chance. Whenever she had the opportunity to fix my husband and my daughter, she did with impressive set of teeth. I always had to be near her to appeal mediating. After only three days my daughter said: Either the dog bails or I move from here...! Because I incredibly loved Nori from the first second on I mediated between husband, daughter and dog.
It were hard days and night without sleep. I had no extraneous assistance and a more than difficult female dog. Nori experienced panic attacks by each and everyone. Sounds, people (especially men), the sight of a newspaper, car, herbage, dogs, puppies, children...I mean everything. But the main problem were doors. A not uncommon problem for breeding dogs. I hardly could persuade her to go through doors. It took a lot of patience, skill and bribery to make her crawl through the doorframe.
A further problem were the feedings. Nori didn't even know a bowl and additionally had to learn that our primal dog eats first. The rattling of the height-adjustable bowl was such a big obstacle for Nori that she didn't even eat although she was hungry. Feeding by hand also doesn't work. Nori doesn't came that close and even if, I would have lost a hand. Concerning this there was no chance to handle her.
Well, with our dog from puppy mill we had problems over problems.
Without any help and after many nights of thinking, I decided to abandon everything I ever had learned about dog training. My dog wasn't like healthy dogs and extraordinary situations require extraordinary actions.
I started with controlled ignorance of Nori. The love and attention our first dog was used to caused Nori fear and stoke panic attacks.
I build up a centrically located camp for her from which she always could see my and that also became her save haven. When she layed there, we respected her needing some peace and quiet. I build up a secong save haven for her, on a place where she could be alone and didn't have to be confronted to anyone, if she didn't want to.
Every door in our house was hang out. The bowl was wrapped with thin leather thong to stop the rattling. A big stone was laying in the bowl to prevent bolting down the food.
We transformed our property into a high-security wing.
At the same time I began to ignore her fear of noises. I vacuumed, I walked around the room, I rattled pots and the radio was on the whole day. I ignored focused and conscientious. But I constantly observed how Nori felt from the corner of my eye. Basically I started a socialization programm, the way it is perfect for puppies. When she got frightened, I calmed her down with peaceful words but never by patting or playing up. Nori had to learn that being frightened is ok because nothing harmful will happen.
Nori tried to digging out of our property. Our current home was build into a hill, nevertheless Nori managed to dig a hole that was 1,60m low. I nearly could stand upright into that hole. So...new boundary and a fence at the hole.
And then the biggest challenge: Nori needed to be neutered. I knew that on her last heat she almost bled to death. The blood values even were that bad when she was already at home, that she had to get iron pills every day.
So it needed the most exact planning: going to the vet with an phobic dog, not to mention getting this dog examinated, is a big challenge itself! The vet was awesome with an incredible effort, because Nori still just let me touch her, it was possible to take blood samples for all needed tests and to do the examination. One week later we had the appointment for the surgery. Nori fended off the anaesthesia so desperately that I sat clasping my dog with a face downed in tears and whispering tender words in her ear...I almost totally lost control. I knew that this wasn't helpful, but I loved her so much and it hurted immensely to see her in this condition.
After a second injection Nori lay down finally. I never will forget how she looked at me. She thought I'll send her across the rainbow.
Tough as dogs from puppy mills are, Nori recovered very quickly. It almost was too late! Nori's uterus was twisted like an eight and the crossing point already festered. One week later she would have been dead! We feel relieved. After the castration Nori was totally free finally. She became 'useless'!
Meanwhile I began to familiarize Nori to the outside life when we went for walks. She walked quiet good with her leash, but she also was allowed to get her own working radius. Essential for her self-confidence! Today I know, that I basically was fearless. To leave a dog with fears beyond control unleashed is just negligent.
We lived in Sauerland in a region where you could take a walk with your dog without using a leash. Vast expanse and easy to monitor areas. The experiment 'freedom for Nori' finally starts.
Nori turned out to be retrievable for me. By using slight voice and much piece I could convince her to come to me. I properly developed a seventh sense in regard of knowing if the area was free or if we are to expect outside influences. Wearing a leash, Nori reacted panic in regard to small groups of people, men, bycicles, children and other dogs if they were small.
Lot of work! Long walks with free run over and over again, including periods of encounter. We lived in a hiking area and repeatedly met hikers, cyclists, skiers etc.! Nori had to learn it.
After nearly a year Nori run without leash next to me. She really enjoyed this a lot. When we met other people she came right next to my leg and remained there until this assumed danger was gone.
Together with her I developed some kind of sign language. Nori responded on signing and gesticulation. She knew that I only used loud orders if there was a real riskshow up like for example a fast mountain biker behind us. She performed every hand signal quickly and properly. Even at a much frequented street Nori confidently walked next to me. She ignored other people. But if someone tries to touch her, she stepped back. She no longer threatens, she simply avoided these kind of situations.
At this time she occasionally had 'flash backs', which means there were some situations that caused panic. Something like flashlight from the past. Dogs didn't have a great memory, but negative experiences are fixed into the brain like slight flash lights. In some linked situations these memory flash lights occur and cause panic.
After this first year my husband was allowed to touch and carefully pet Nori. My daughter too. We hardly had any private visitors. Nori scared away our supposed friends. One can hence recognize, who the real friends are!
In the second year the decisive phase started. Direct confrontation with our guests. I managed a dog friendly hotel with many guests all year long. Jackpot! Nori turned out to be the perfect hotel dog, who searched for contact to the guest's dogs and even sometimes allowed other women to pet her. Men remained suspicious in her eyes. Until her death only a few men were allowed to touch her.
But still there were so endless other things that Nori didn't know because her mind constructs a wall. I could cuddle her but she never laid at her back. While snuggling Nori always was on the run. She still turns distrustful when tenderness became too deep. At this time our second dog from a puppy mill and thus third dog came to us.
Abby was a dog from puppy mill of exeptional manner. An absolute cuddly type. 80% of the day Abby laid on her back getting belly rub.
Nori and Abby were a good team. Our first female dog Kara always was a bit restrained, but our breeding dogs were firmly attached. Nori benefits a lot from this relationship. Many times she observed us cuddling Abby tenderly. Finally there was the day when Nori was lying at her back in front of my bed , grunting, with a a big smile on her face. Carefully I layed down next to her and stroked her. A very hugh miracle occurs! For the first time ever I tightly could enfold Nori into my arms. She put her head on my shoulder, closed her eyes and happily mumbles. When I wanted to release her, she called for more affections. After that day our relationship became much more profound.
Nori turned into a real cuddly type – even with my husband. She became sovereign and confident. She didn't care for noises. One day a hughe carving knife fell on the floor and she didn't even shrugged.
There was a very individual and extremely close bond between us, but she wasn't that devoted anymore. I also could leave her alone togehter with the other dogs.
For me she became a really 'normal' dog – three years after she came to us. Some outsiders still noticed small uncertainties, which were irrelevant. Nori had learned, that not every person is bad. Sometimes she allowed a child to pet her. She wasn't afraid of small dogs and puppies anymore. Finally she was able to sleep in doorframes and on our couch she totally relaxed her body and fell asleep to nature's lullaby. It was a lang and very hard fight. Nori grew thereon, but probably I grew much more. I learned a lot because of Nori. She made me become more quiet, more controlled and calmer. She teached me how to communicate to animals and therefor I am very thankful to her.
Our common way slowly came to an end and I was stunned and insatiably sad. In March 2010 a serious and irreparable cardiac defect was diagnosed. Nori nearly had a huge hole in her right heart chamber. The tricuspid valve didn't close correctly. We knew: She is going to die because of that and the time frame becomes smaller and smaller.
We gave her all necessary medicine. We no longe filled her life with days but her days with life!
She became weaker. That was the time when I began to learn everything about terminal medical care. My beloved, wonderful and unique female dog would experience her last journey full of love, protection and care – when she tells me, that she is ready for. Her life won't end up on the concrete floor of a cage.
Nori died in our arms on 21st September 2010. At the second of her death a sunbeam fell on her basket and made her incredibly beautiful coat shine like gold.
Nori's death made me fall into a huge, dark hole. For a very very long time I couldn't overcome this stroke of fate. Any attempt to look after a new dog was blighted by me.
Until today I sometimes feel like I can hear her silent footsteps next to me and scent her wonderful smell of sunshine and nature.
Nori loved orange-colored flowers so much! With deep devotion she stood in front of it watching and gently sniffling. I try to imagine that in her new world Nori is walking across meadows full of orange flowers. Her red golden coat sparkles in the sun and meanwhile she plays there together with our Kara and our beloved Abby. Run free, my girl. You'll always have a very very special place in my heart. I love you very much!
As a Buddhist I believe in reincarnation. So for me it remains hope to meet again. We will recognize each other, because we loved each other...
(Daniela Koppenhöfer, owner of Nori)