Welcome to the Ruff Mutts Family!

We have some great dogs we want to welcome to Ruff Mutts! We can’t wait to spend ample time with all of them walking the streets of Portland and tearing up some turf at the dog park. Thanks for being part of Ruff Mutts!








Dottie at the DPA











River and Oreo


River & Oreo with toys








and last, but certainly, not least – TROLL!


PBS: Dogs That Changed the World

I recently watched Dogs That Changed the World, a PBS film from their Nature series and was at the edge of my seat, glued to the screen with all the amazing and fun info I was learning. If you’re fascinated by dogs, like me, then find this video, grab some popcorn smothered in goodness, and throw that DVD into the player! It really was so fun and, of course, left me totally  impressed with the ever-amazing canine. Here are some highlights:

The story of Delta, a diabetes sniffing German Shepherd dog, that changed a little boy’s life.

Delta the Service Dog

Delta the Service Dog

An excellent vigenette discussing the transition of working dogs to pet dogs, with wise word from dog trainer Robert Alleyne.

A really cool evolutionary theory brought to light by biologist Raymond Coppinger who suggests dogs were domesticated by living off of trash created from the earliest group human settlements.


Just wanted to share. Have you seen it?

Dog ACL Injury: Diagnosis

I remember walking into the vet office & diagnosing Winks myself, suggesting a possible broken toe or toe nail. With a puny toe-touching limp, how could it would be anything else? It looked nothing more than a minor injury occurring from a rough play date at Fernhill Park. The girl loves to rumble. When she was diagnosed with her ACL tear I didn’t believe it. Truly, I walked out of the vet office shocked, bewildered, & already on the phone making an appointment for a second opinion. Winks barely had a limp & most of the time didn’t limp at all.

This was my first foray into the strange realm of the canine ACL injury. Yuck. It’s intense. This isn’t one of those things where they say, it’s definitely this, & we, therefore, need to do that. It’s more like, we’re pretty sure it’s this & you can do any of the following options, which might work. HEAVY. If you’ve found this post because you’re going through what we were, then I totally empathize. I really do. It’s a huge weight on your mind. And your dog can’t tell you what’s going on or how they’re feeling. On top of that it’s a long term injury, whatever way you decide to proceed.

So I started researching. And I encourage you to do so, too. However you proceed, the best way to start is to be the informed advocate for your dog. I quickly found there’s lots of info out there – some true & some totally bogus. So beware & be smart – fish for the truth. Read real stories & information, not bogus comments that flood your head with BS. Feel a little comfort knowing that once you do make a decision on how to proceed, your dog will get better. It might not be immediate but every day after you make your decision is one day closer to your dog being a happy-goofy-to-the-power-of-ten-wacko again.

Before we start getting into what I’ve learned, I want to clarify that everything I’m sharing is from my personal experience with my dog. The information I gained was from online research, meetings with vets, discussions with other dog caretakers who have been through this, & more. I’m not a vet. I’m not a vet tech. I don’t work in the medical field in any capacity. But I am a person who is a great listener & an experienced researcher who possesses the ability to discern between fact & fiction. I want to share what I’ve learned because I was stressed & exhausted by the endless search for the perfect answer. Right now, you should know that there isn’t one perfect answer. If there was, there would be a clear diagnosis & one best surgery. Makes sense, right? Proceed with the path that works best for you & your dog.

Here are some interesting & fun things we learned about diagnosis for the condition.

1) The ligament we are talking about is actually called the “CCL” or the canine cruciate ligament, not ACL. It’s function is similar to that of the human ACL & during your research you will commonly find people referring to the ligament as the ACL, which is technically incorrect. I used it in the title of the article because the misnomer happens so frequently I didn’t want people looking for the ACL injury to miss out!

2) Diagnosis of this ligament tear isn’t straight forward, frankly, because the doctors cannot see the ligament. There is a “test” and a few symptoms that are indicative of a tear. X-rays are not a way to diagnose a ligament tear. X-rays only weed out other possible injuries, like breaks or bone spurs (arthritis). Here are more details about the test and common symptoms:

  • The drawer test – the CCL is a ligament in the knee that provides stability to the joint. The function is to prevent the knee from being loosey-goosey & provides some restriction to the motion that occurs between the bones that exist around the joint. The vet will perform a very simple test, pushing and pulling the knee joint in different directions to see if it slides an exceptional amount.  A knee with limited movement, indicates the joint is stable, meaning the ligaments are intact. A knee with a lot of movement, indicates a ligament is torn, partially or fully. There are two ligaments in the knee. The CCL is the ligament that is more commonly torn.
  • Symptoms – when a ligament is partially or fully torn, a dog’s knees will be sore & achey.  Frequently, they try to relieve their aches & pains with a variety of poses, some rather sadly adorable, including a 3-legged stand, toe-touching or dragging, leg extension, or sitting on their bum with a leg extended like a kickstand. I’ve included a couple photos for a visual.

possible knee injury leading to side sitting

side sit knee injury


Your vet will probably say things like, “It’s very likely your dog has a partially or fully torn ligament”. If your dog has received this dreaded diagnosis, I highly recommend a second or even third opinion.

I’ll be following up with other chapters in our experience soon!


Dog Training 101: Socialization

I want to really tackle the big things dog-owners should know about from day one of adoption, particularly from puppy age. Socialization is an important part of a doggie’s life – its fun, its stimulating, and it uses up energy! However, I want to really stress the HUGE benefits socializing your puppy at a young age can have to guard against fearful and/or aggressive behavior as an adult.


Proper socialization = positive exposure to many situations and environments that the dog may encounter throughout her life.

Another word for this is “Desensitization,”  a term that refers to teaching your dog that things are no big deal – and letting her know she need not react to them. If your dog becomes tense or nervous in a new situation, do not punish OR soothe her for this will only IMPRINT the fearful reaction. Instead redirect her attention onto a treat or toy and then calmly remove her from the situation and figure out how to reintroduce her to it in smaller steps.

You might need to slow down and build up your puppy’s confidence! You should always make positive associations with new things you encounter and try to avoid overwhelming her by over-exposing her to too many things at one time. Use treats to help her learn to be brave and let her go at her own pace. A good way to know if your puppy is comfortable is if she will take a treat.


Dogs react to your reaction. If you become tense, angry, or unpredictable – she will pick up on this energy quickly and associate it with the new encounter, whatever it may be. Stay calm and guide her through the event with strength and a positive attitude. Basically, react how you want her to react.

An example of proper socialization is bringing your puppy to a class and exposing her to friendly dogs at a distance she feels comfortable with. You give her treats and praise when she is calm. If she becomes agitated, you move her a bit farther away from the group until she is comfortable again. Slowly bring her closer, maybe even over the course of a few visits spanning a few weeks, keeping things positive as the puppy gets accustomed to the other dogs. You can use this same technique for anything you want to expose your dog to: the vaccuum, cars, new people, knocks on the door, bicycles, etc. – its a big world out there and while you can’t explain these things to your pup, you can show her that everything is normal by staying calm, redirecting her attention to something positive, and letting her go at her own pace.


Hoping for a world full of happy dogs,

Kelly Witters, CPDT


Dog ACL Injury: Periwinkle’s CCL Story

Dogs are resilient creatures. Dog walking & pet sitting around PDX town, I see it all the time. Still, it’s hard to remember that fact when something happens to your own furry baby. With a body full of surprise-relief-delight (in that order), today I very proudly watched & helped Periwinkle hobble her way out of Aumsville Animal Clinic on 4 paws (sort-of on 4 paws) after major double knee surgery. I feel like I finally let out a deep breath I’ve been holding for months.

NOM NOM NOM NOM. Peri only needs 4 NOMS for such a pathetic bone. Even on drugs.

NOM NOM NOM NOM. Peri only needs 4 NOMS for such a pathetic bone. Even on drugs.

Periwinkle tore both her CCLs (cranial cruciate ligament – canine version of the human ACL) all the way back in…oh..maybe January of this year..? Lots of people who’ve been through what we’re going through understand why we don’t know exactly when – often a CCL tear happens over time. I’d bet a dollar they’d understand the stress & fear we’ve felt, too!

It took us a while to get where we are now, but the Winks finally had her knees did. And it’s done. And it’s over. Phew. I’m super excited about it even though today she’s a sleepy-stitch-seepy-drug-happy-drool-machine.

You can see Peri's knees here a bit. Still looking pretty.

You can see Peri’s knees here a bit. Still looking pretty.

I plan to share many more details about our story, which basically runs the gamut because we did it all: vet visits, research, conservative management, financial decisions, choosing a surgeon, preparing your home for pet surgery, the surgery itself, & the recovery period in due time. For now, I’m going to get back to my girl & continue satisfying my Breaking Bad addiction. Can you believe they only put the first half of the last season up? Torture but not as torturous as the CCL thing. Glad I have my priorities straight.

Cornbread checking in. Winks actually got a bit protective of her food when he came around but let him sit in her crate with her.

Cornbread checking in. Winks actually got a bit protective of her food when he came around but let him sit in her crate with her.

Lots of fluff in Peri's Doggy Den Recovery Room.

Lots of fluff in Peri’s Doggy Den Recovery Room.

Heating Up for the Summer

It looks like temperatures are going to be soaring over the next week. Not all animal-loving Portlanders have air-conditioners and because I care so much about all of you and your precious pets, here are a few pointers from your friendly neighborhood dog walker and pet sitter for making sure they’re safe at home while you’re away.

– Give them easy access to lots of cool, fresh water

– Make sure your pets have a shady spot in the house to hang out. Consider moving them, their bed/blankets, or crates to an area of the house that is cooler. Shut doors or use baby gates to keep them confined to the cooler area of the house.

– Keep shades or curtains drawn during the day to keep the sun and heat out. Open windows and shades overnight to let cool air in.

happy girl

happy girl

Walk your dogs early in the day and keep kitties, bunnies, and other small pets indoors. Beware of very hot ground burning your pups paws. Make sure not to over-exercise them – don’t worry about giving your pups a strenuous workout and keep a keen eye on their behavior and body temperature. You can feel the temperature of the inside of their ears to see how warm they are. Excessive panting, drooling, stumbling, or difficulty breathing are some warning signs of the start of over-heating.

Short-nosed dogs are very susceptible to problems in the heat so be extra careful with them during hot weather.

– Give your pets a wet-towel rub down or light spray bottle bath and let them sit in front of a fan. Ooooo, weee! That feels good. Or, prepare a shallow kiddie pool for them to cool off in.

Brush your pets to improve circulation throughout their hair or fur.

– Of course, never, ever leave your pets in a car on a warm day.

Have fun this summer!

Follow up: National Pit Bull Awareness Day Bully Walk

Periwinkle, Nina, & I had a great time at today’s Bully Walk in celebration of National Pit Bull Awareness Day in SE Portland, OR. Thanks very much to everyone who organized the event. We look forward to the next bully walk!