Angie Jenkins wasn’t looking for another dog. She moved to Bluffton three years ago from West Virginia after a divorce, with her two herding dogs, Cinder and Sy.
Then came Whibbles Magoo.
Jenkins saw a video for Snooty Giggles, a Tennessee-based dog rescue that focuses on rehabbing and finding homes for medically challenged dogs. The rescue is known for its creativity, giving all its rescues regal and fancy names.
“The video tugged at my heart and made me cry. I started following them on Facebook and Whibbles was in one of the next videos,” Jenkins said. “His foster was training him to sit for the first time.”
A challenge for any dog, but even more so for Whibbles, who is deaf and blind. He was the product of a double merle breeding. There are 22 breeds that can produce merle dogs, a genetic pattern that creates mottled patches of color on the coat, different skin pigments and blue or odd-colored eyes.
Breeding two merles together is a genetic nightmare which causes a myriad of illnesses in 25 percent of a litter, including deafness and blindness. The merle coat is a coveted quirk, so breeders take the chance and discard the double merles.
Whibbles was the product of a merle farming dog, not a breeder. The farmer thought the female was out of heat and let her roam off the farm, where the double merle litter occurred.
Whibbles was set to be euthanized, but the vet had a relationship with Snooty Giggles, who agreed to take on the pup that was fighting a deadly case of pneumonia, as well as being deaf and blind.
“I just kept seeing the video and one day, I decided to reach out to see if he was still available,” Jenkins said. “They had 600 applications, but there was no fits until me, I guess. It takes a very specific owner and environment to make it work.”
On top of the physical issues, Whibbles had extreme anxiety, which led to constant nipping and biting.
“My kids are grown and living in Virginia. This pack, they’re my kids now. And this was heart breaking at first,” Jenkins said. “I cried once or twice a week for six to eight months just wondering if I could do it, if it was the right fit, if I could give him his best life.”
Slowly but surely, Jenkins, Cinder and Sy proved to be the perfect fit for Whibbles Magoo.
“He is so smart, he just wanted to be loved and challenged,” Jenkins said. “I feel like I won the lottery. Whibbles is just an amazing dog.”
Training is a unique challenge, with food and treat smells and textures being a driving force in motivating Whibbles to learn. So far, he has learned over 30 commands.
“To teach him to sit, we had to be in an enclosed space, put a treat on his nose until he backed against a wall and sat. He immediately realized that the treat on or above the nose meant to sit,” Jenkins said. “It’s incredible how many different gestures he can differentiate. A backward swoosh of his coat, a forward swoosh, a touch of the ear or a certain paw all lead to a different action. He is just brilliant and so excited to learn new things.”
Jenkins has worked with trainer Elise Wolpert at Dog Gone Sensational Training in Ridgeland to get Whibbles ready for more active events like Updog disk agility events, dock diving and barn hunts (where dogs search through hay stacks to find a scent).
Mr. Magoo (I had to say it) has also earned Canine Good Citizen certification, a specific testing for dogs and handlers that test dogs’ ability to perform a number of well-behaving tasks like walking on a leash, sitting and being cordial to other owners and their dogs.
Jenkins has become an ardent supporter of Snooty Giggles, knowing that they spent thousands of dollars to keep Whibbles Magoo alive long enough to find a forever home with her, Cinder the cattle dog and Sy the Australian Shepherd.
She recently entered Whibbles in the rescue’s calendar contest. Each dollar donated in Whibbles honor counted as a vote. Jenkins knew with his name, being 99th on the list of dogs was going to make him a longshot. He didn’t make the calendar, but she achieved the ultimate goal of raising money for the rescue.
The real prize is seeing her pack, which she has named the CinSyBbles, come together as a family.
“Cinder and Sy are thick as thieves with Whibbles. They are in constant motion,” Jenkins said of watching the daily show in her fenced-in backyard in Lawton Station. “It’s not all rosy; there are a lot of ups and downs still today, two years later. But he’s grown from puppy to teenager and he’s mostly through the nipping. I know his anxiety red zones that bring it out and we try to keep him clear of those situations.”
Jenkins has temporarily added a fourth dog, fostering a beautiful deaf puppy named Whitlee. She hopes to adopt the Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix to a Bluffton home.
“Whitlee has been amazing for our pack, brought them even closer together. But we can only have three dogs here in the neighborhood,” Jenkins said. “These dogs need a patient owner, a very specific kind of compassion and understanding, but what they give you back in return is so much more, just immeasurable love.”
Jenkins has Whitlee listed on Petfinder.com. You can reach out about adopting Whitlee and follow Whibbles #whibbleswednesday escapades by following and/or direct messaging Angie O’Quinn Jenkins on Facebook.
Tim Wood is a veteran journalist based in Bluffton. Contact him at email@example.com.