Thursday, February 26, 2009

Some good news

The job search continues in this stinking economy. But, you've got to take good news where you can find it, and I have received some via email over the past week or two.

Jake is a shepherd mix rescued from a trailer court here in Fluvanna. His family lived in a single-wide and had recently had a litter of pitbull puppies. I'm sure they hoped and planned to sell the pups for money to support their crack and/or meth habits. Jake was fine with the pups, but the female pitbull didn't like him being around them. They first tried him in an outdoor kennel, but Jake barked constantly because he was accustomed to life inside the trailer. The owner of the trashy trailer park told them to get rid of the dog and they contacted me. He had heartworms, but went through the treatment without problems. Jake was great as a foster dog, but he really wanted and needed to be in a home. He was adopted by a young woman who had previously adopted a shepherd from me. He has a wonderful home for the first time in his life and an owner who absolutely adores him. You can see by his smile just how happy Jake is.

The trailer park he came from has finally been closed because it had no functioning septic system. The loss of a home doesn't usually result in a rise in one's standard of living, but that is exactly what happened for Jake. His guardian angel worked overtime.

Perhaps after Jake's angel saw that he was settled and well cared for, he took up Bud's cause to keep him busy. Bud is doing well, continuing to settle in, enjoying the comforts of indoors, and also enjoying walks on the farm. He is friendly with strangers, but still prefers that they keep their hands to themselves. However, the owner has some understanding friends who are helping him work on that. I changed his status from "pending" to "adopted" when I was told that I'd need to find someone new to take over Bud's role as kennel manager. I'm very happy to have the vacancy and I know that Bud is happy to have a real home for the first time in his life.

Jerry's new family wrote recently and said:

Jerry has become a trusted and loved family member from day one. It feels like he's been with us for years. He's like a brother to [our son] and a new child to [us]. From his playfullness to his protective nature and obedience, he's really astounded us.

Now isn't that nice?

Here's a pic of Jerry taken at an adoption event this fall. He was new then and pretty nervous, so I just sat by him with my arm around him most of the time. We didn't meet anyone there that day I would have considered adopting him to anyway. He found a really great home.

Samson's new mom is just in love with him. Here's a pic after a walk on a cold and wet day. I like seeing that kind of commitment and devotion to a dog's needs.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Score was part of a litter of pups born to a VGSR dog while in foster care. His mother was a black shepherd, I believe, and it appears that the puppy daddy was a black lab. Apparently the entire litter was named after candy bars, don't ask me why. I was not the original foster home. Score was adopted out as a pup and was returned when he was less than a year old, essentially because he was a pup. He was young, energetic, and bothered the hell out of the older dog in the adopter's household.

Score is actually rather mellow and laid back. If the people had waited another two months, they would have had a great dog. You have to wonder what will happen if those people ever have teenage children. Some people have no sense of shame, or committment, and they find it easy to just dump the dog if it becomes the least bit inconvenient. They have the pup through the young, cute puppy stage, and then they dump it when it becomes an adolescent brat. A lot of dogs Score's age end up in shelters for just that reason. It's the classic "Christmas puppy" syndrome. By the time of Jesus's next birthday, that cute little xmas pup is a grown up, untrained brat, and ends up in a shelter facing a needle.

Score is better off without them. Dogs deserve someone who is prepared to stand by their commitment and make it work. Fortunately, Score found a new home last weekend. They were a bit uncertain and so they took him home on a trial, but the "trial" lasted all of 10 minutes before they knew that Score was there to stay.

I'm very happy for him. He's a great dog but he's been a bit hard to adopt out as a shepherd because he's a mutt. However, he is the perfect mix for his new home.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is sometime in May, I guess, but I don't see any reason not to celebrate one's mother on any or every day.

Although her primary interest and activity is Democratic politics, my mother has been involved in pretty much every worthwhile civic organization in Salina, Kansas. Currently, she's on the boards of the Commission on Aging, the Food Bank, and volunteers at a day care center for seniors, to name just a few. Over the years, there have been many more than I could hope to remember, and probably quite a few that she's forgotten about herself.

She doesn't mess with organizations that do nothing but get together to talk among themselves over lunch or coffee, but if they are actively involved in doing something worthwhile for the community, chances are good that she has ran it, chaired it, volunteered with it, or organized it in some manner or another.
It is no surprise then that she's also been volunteering with the Salina Animal Shelter. Some time ago, a new director came on board and made some good changes, including getting volunteers involved and taking shelter dogs out to community events. One such event took place this past weekend, one of those home and garden expo sort of things. My mother volunteered for a shift in the shelter's booth on Sunday, which is just the sort of thing she's good at because she knows half the town and will talk to absolutely anyone who passes within earshot. (Believe me, a simple trip to anywhere in Salina needs a half hour built in for talking to people she runs into.)

She called me after her shift on Sunday all excited because they had found an adopter for Sissy, a very senior boxer girl who had been dumped at the shelter when her owners moved without her. Placing any dog is always cause for celebration, but placing a senior dog calls for fireworks. I place calls like that to her whenever I get a dog adopted, and for once I was on the receiving end and could hear the excitement, the elation, the "high" that you get from nothing else. And the icing on the cake, she also managed to help someone get a dog spayed or neutered that otherwise wouldn't have happened.
As we said to each other, some days it is hard to tell if you've made a difference. Fortunately, some days it is easy.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Beach Party Midnight Madness Adoptathon

Today was CASPCA's Midnight Madness Adoptathon. It was a beach party theme and ran from noon to midnight. I guess it is still ongoing as I write this. I took Jeep in this morning on my way to work, as well as the three pups I was fostering. The pups all got neutered today.

Jeep (Jeeves is his CASPCA name), didn't have a great time at the beach party. He's terribly shy and isn't really a party animal. Apparently he spent most of the day in his run with his back turned towards everyone -- not a great way to be adopted. Of course, Jeep thinks he has a home already and isn't interested in being adopted. He was glad to see me when I got there after work about 6:00 p.m. We spent a couple hours hanging around the lobby, but the crowd was pretty much gone at that point, which was fine with him anyway. In a situation like that he is very clingy with me. He sticks close, tries to wrap himself around my legs, gives me lots of kisses, and does what he can to make sure I take him home, which of course I did.

One of the pups came back home with me for another week because they want his skin condition to clear up a bit more prior to adoption. Another pup got adopted almost as soon as he hit the adoption suite. The third one will probably go this evening or almost certainly tomorrow.

The one who got adopted went to a very nice young couple. They were nervous but excited to have him. I'm glad I got to meet them and to see him off.

I hated bringing home just the one pup to be by himself, so I brought home three more to keep him company. They had just come in and are on a stray hold. All four pups will go back next Thursday.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Bud, home at last

I've been afraid to write of this, or even to speak of it other than sotto voce, but Bud went to a new home last weekend.

I've had inquiries about Bud before. He's a great looking rottweiler. When these folks wrote, I tried to interest them in Bear instead, assuming that Bud wouldn't work. But Bear wouldn't work because of their cats, and they really were interested in meeting Bud. They had rottweiler experience, a fenced yard, and no kids, so I didn't have any immediate reason to say "no."

I should back up and introduce Bud, so that those who don't know him will appreciate the magnitude of this event. Bud was owned by a redneck kid who grew up, moved on (probably to hard liquor and meth), and left Bud with his father in a small outdoor pen. As I got the story, he had a beagle buddy who would come and go at will through a tunnel he had dug under the pen. Bud had apparently been a party-going dog at one time, and that may well be where and how he developed his distrust of strangers.

Bud arrived at my house wearing this collar. I keep it upstairs in my office, sometimes wear it myself, but it's never been back on Bud. It says much about the power of the dog, but even more about the people who had him. Bud is not the biggest rottie in the world, but he has a tremendous head that is really all jaw. He has a classic rottie build: big, heavy chest and shoulders, trim little butt, basically built like a bison. He doesn't bark a lot, but it's a big, deep, window rattling "WOOF" when he does. Bud is great with other dogs. He's even taken a lot of abuse from a dog-aggressive female shepherd that I had for a while. He protects himself, but won't fight.

Bud's only real personality problem is that he growls at strangers. He will let new people approach and even touch him, but then he growls. It's a low, deep, warning growl. No one who hears that growl wants to find out how far they can push the dog before he will snap. It is quite intimidating to look down at that massive head, at crotch height, and feel as much as hear, the growl it emits. When Bud first came to our house, I fed him, cleaned up the kennel he was in, provided rawhide for chewing, but did not try to touch him. This went on for probably a couple months or more. I wasn't afraid of being around Bud, he didn't want any trouble, he just didn't want to be handled. Eventually, he grew to trust me and he would then come to me, sit and lean rottie-style, and want attention.

Bud was with us for over a year and a half. I got him neutered at the SPCA by doping him up before we went in, muzzling him, and holding him while they gave him a sedative. When he got wobbly, I walked him to the edge of the operating room where the vet gave him another shot that knocked him out. I picked him up from the floor of the recovery room when he was still quite sedated and got him home. Neutering didn't make a difference, Bud still didn't care for strangers. Even after a year and a half, Clay couldn't touch him without eliciting the growl. I assumed that Bud would be with us for the duration.

Fortunately, Bud was an easy keeper. Plenty of food and rawhide kept him happy. When we went away, we had people feed him by lowering a bucket over the fence so they didn't have to worry about direct contact with Bud. I felt better that way, Bud probably preferred it, and I expect the caretaker did too. The last trip we took, Bud was boarded with a very dog-savvy person who keeps pitbulls herself and isn't easily intimidated by the bully breed dogs. She exercised caution but had no trouble.

Bud was a great kennel manager too, helping to break in new fosters to our routine. Bud saw many of them come and go. I wasn't at all sure there was a home for Bud, other than ours.

I took Bud to his new home last Sunday, just expecting to do a meet and greet at most, and I assumed that after they heard the growl that would be the end of it. I am pleased to be so very wrong. They liked Bud and wanted him on the spot, even knowing that they would have work to do. They saw Bud's level of trust with me, so they knew it could be done. They are calm, quiet, and most of all, patient people. Bud was fine with their other dog. Bud spent the first few days in their walkout basement with access to the backyard. He could lay on a sofa and watch the world through a sliding glass door. The last email I had from them was after Bud spent his first night in their bedroom. He now prefers to be not just inside, but upstairs with them. I think that Bud is finally home at last.

Bud has found a new home.
We should be very happy for Bud.
Good night, Bud.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Puppy update

Ok, so nothing has really changed with the puppies, but they are cute and I won't have them long, so I wanted to post a couple of new pictures.

The thing that is about to change is that they are going back to the shelter on Saturday. They will be spayed/neutered that same day and will then be up for adoption. I would be surprised if they aren't all adopted by the end of the weekend.

The Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA is having a big adoption event on Saturday, noon to midnight. I am going to take in Jeep for that and leave him there until I get off work at the end of the day. Because the puppies are having surgery that day, I don't know if they will be available that same day, but they probably will be on Sunday and I'm sure they will go fast.

It has been cold since I've had them, but they are living under wooden A-frame and doghouse that opens to the inside of the A-frame. The entire thing is filled deep with straw and is covered with a tent made with an old comforter to keep out drafts. The pups have plenty of room inside to play as well as sleep, but they always come out to see me when I go in there to feed and clean. I pick them up and they are warm, radiating heat, so I know they are cozy in there. They have gained some weight and have fat little bellies now. Their hair is still thin, it will take some time to grow in, but they are not scratching any more, so I'm sure the scabies are gone.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Julie adopted from CASPCA

I had a note from CASPCA today that Julie had been adopted. I was at once very happy and sad. I'm happy for her, of course. She was a great dog, very good to everyone, and she deserved a wonderful home. I hope she got it. The sad part is simply because I wasn't involved in finding the home. I guess I feel responsible for them if I foster them and it's hard to turn them back over to someone else to make the placement decision. I don't have any reason to believe it is anything less than a fantastic home; it's just the not knowing part that is difficult.

I saw Julie when I was at the shelter earlier this week. I walked into the lobby and she was there with someone who had been out walking her. She recognized me and was happy to see me. I wasn't sure when I went in that day if I would seek her out. I was afraid that she would be upset if she saw me but didn't get to go home with me. That's just me projecting my own feelings onto the dog, I know, but I do wonder what they must think.

Julie was wonderful. She really raised Philly, and put up with all of her puppy nonsense while they were both quarantined together for ringworm. Philly owes her a big debt of gratitude, and she enriched my life as well. She's not the prettiest dog in the world, but I've known few dogs who could match her for sweetness and just good, solid temperament. She was "bomb proof," nothing rattled her, she got along with everyone, and she could move into pretty much any situation with ease. I hope her adopters know how lucky they are.

A Valentine from Victor

I haven't heard much from Victor since he was adopted. Victor is a long haired shepherd, not my favorite look, but he is a strikingly handsome dog. He was rather dog aggressive for quite some time. I had him living with Bud, who could handle him without either of them getting hurt, but it wasn't until Hercules came along that Victor really learned how to relate to other dogs. Victor (right) absolutely adored Herc.

What Herc (left) absolutely loved was playing fetch. We would go out to the pasture and I'd use the tennis ball thrower. Herc would run after the ball with Victor a half stride behind him the entire way. I wish I had a picture of them running together, but all I ever got was a blur of long hair and flying slobber. If Victor managed to get the ball first, there would be a scuffle. Actually it was a huge, loud, snarling wrestling match between the two boys. Fights between male dogs are usually more sound and fury than actual blood. I never get involved and they usually stop when I walk away. Victor and Herc never actually hurt each other beyond pulling off tufts of the other's long hair. Before long, Victor learned that the fun was in the chase and he didn't ever seriously try for the ball, he just wanted to run with his buddy Hercules.

Victor was a stray from far down in the mountains of southwest Virginia. He was the only dog I've taken from down there who had heartworms. We treated him for the heartworms and got him neutered. He lived with me for several months although I nearly put him down after he attacked another dog with absolutely no provocation. It seemed that when Victor got worked up, he would just explode in a burst of aggressive energy directed at the nearest dog. Hercules probably saved his life because he provided Victor with an outlet for that energy and he eventually learned to get along with other dogs.

To make an anthropomorphic analogy, if Victor was a gay kid, Herc was his first crush. It was a mostly one-sided relationship and Victor would have been devastated if Hercules had left him. Fortunately, Victor got adopted first and he now lives in Washington, D.C. Such a change of life this dog has had. The owners are a nice young couple and they had experience with shepherds. They have taken him to a trainer who has experience with rescued shepherds as well and he seems to be making good progress, although they say that he still needs work on "independence and socialization." I can believe that from what I observed with Victor and Herc. He really needs a lead dog. Hmmm, maybe they just need another.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Betty takes up running

Betty was adopted on Sunday to a young couple from northern Virginia. They are nice folks. They happened to meet her at the Gainesville adoption event on the prior Sunday. I stopped by their house on my way home that day and knocked off the home visit even in advance of their application. Like I said, both are nice people with lots of love to give. Betty loves the entire world and assumes that it loves her back, so that's a good starting place.

What these folks have going for them that many potential homes do not is the fact that the husband of this couple is a marathon runner. A casual stroll is a pleasant event for people to share with their dog, but it is not exercise for the dog. Betty is young, long legged, slender, and very energetic. She will need serious exercise on a daily basis to prevent her from developing the bad behavior that comes along with boredom. So, for this reason, this is potentially an ideal home for Betty.

Lots of people claim to be runners, but that usually means that they used to run some and have thought they should get back into it. You can tell whether or not a person is truly a serious runner with a quick and simple glance. They are lean and wiry, no body fat, just like Betty. Betty's new daddy is truly a runner, so they have that going for them. They don't have much dog experience as adults, however, so that is somewhat concerning, but at least with Betty they don't have any temperament problems to be concerned about. It seemed like a good potential match and certainly worth a try.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A hectic Thursday

There is a lot to pack into a day off in the middle of the week. After the round of morning dog feeding, I started with a visit to my own doctor (a wrist/elbow injury, probably due to dog walking), then did the trip to CASPCA to swap Julie for the three pups after putting a turkey breast in the crockpot for the day. I stopped for a couple bales of straw on the way home for the puppies, who now have enough straw to burrow into for warmth.

This afternoon, Cabell, Bremo, and Zachary spent some time in the dog yard and pasture, followed by Chance, Bud, and Lyka this evening, while I filled bird feeders, scooped poop, and changed the water in all the outdoor water tanks.

Emmylou and Molly and I did a good long, and fast, hike on the Fluvanna Heritage trail late this afternoon. They are tired girls this evening. My weight was down when I was at the doctor's office today, so it is having a beneficial effect on me too.

Foster dog swap

I had an email from CASPCA yesterday offering a 3 for 1 swap. They would take back Julie if I take in three pups with scabies. It doesn't sound like such a good deal, but of course I took it. Julie only has demodex at this point. She isn't contagious and doesn't really need to be here. Back at the shelter she will get more human interaction and she will get to be known by the staff. She's very sweet and I expect that she will be adopted quickly when the demodex is cleared up. Still, I hated to take her back. She wasn't particularly scared, but I felt bad leaving her when she still didn't have a home and wasn't yet ready for adoption.

The three pups I took in have scabies, which is the potentially contagious form of mange-- contagious to both dogs and humans. However, they've already had the Revolution, which will kill the mites rather quickly (I hope), and they can go back on February 21st, making them pretty short termers. Also, they can go in a separate kennel and they don't have to be rotated in and out of the dog yard. With Julie gone, that pack is down to four (Bear, Jeep, Betty, and Score), which will make them easier to move from the kennel to the yard, to the pasture, etc. And then there is the whole adorable puppy factor:

Monday, February 9, 2009

The view never changes

There's a saying that goes something like this: "If you're not the lead dog, the view never changes." That proved to be at least partially true for Emmylou and Cabell today. We went for a hike with my new three dog rigging today. Molly was out front because she's a natural scout anyway. Emmylou seems to prefer the anchor position and I like her there because she helps control the pace of the other dogs. Cabell was in the middle because he's relatively new at this and has a tendency to wander off the trail if given the chance. When he's suspended between the two girls, they keep him moving forward down the trail pretty well.

The dogs' harnesses are connected by 6' ropes, so they are not exactly nose-to-butt, but they are close enough that they know their place on the team. Cabell had two ropes to contend with and he got tangled a couple of times, mostly when he would stop to lift his leg. Once he stopped that and got with the forward motion program, it all went remarkably smoothly. They all figured out that it worked best if they kept minimal slack in the rope, and Cabell learned that he walked a bit out of the line from the other two he had less chance of entanglement. They are all resting quietly this evening. Cabell isn't accustomed to our walks and he is pretty wiped out, but he enjoyed it. Emmy has been objecting to the lack of outdoor activity lately, so this satisfied her, for today anyway.

There is a limit to how many nice days like this we can hope or expect to have in February, so I took advantage of this one to cook outside this evening.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The best therapy

When my first partner died, I was kind of a mess. I had dropped about 30-40 pounds myself, just from stress, and weighed what I had when I was 16 years old. Needless to say, the weight has come back, and then some. I contemplated many things, including selling the house and moving away because I didn't really have anything to hold me in Virginia. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. (Still don't, I guess.) Bert's death came as a suprise to many because few people even knew he was sick. As messed up as I was, I found that I was actually better prepared for it than many others. The thing that helped me the most in those days was not the well meaning people who tried to help me, but rather, the attempts I made to help other people deal with the shock, the loss, the devastation that they felt. Don't worry, I'm going somewhere with this.

In the current mess that is my life, I again contemplated many things. Changing jobs is a given. Moving isn't really an option in today's market. Giving up rescue work was certainly considered, but rejected when I decided to run again for the board of directors of VGSR. I have cut back and will continue to reduce the number of foster dogs around here, but I don't want to give it up entirely and what happened today is the reason why.

Holiday was adopted from the Gainesville adoption event today. A dog adoption is always enough to make me happy, but this one was kind of special. The official adopter is a man younger than me with three kids. The real adopter, however, was his daughter, who both wanted and I think, needed, the dog. I'm not going to publish her picture, of course, but the young woman came alive when she had the dog, and talked in a way that she hadn't previously. From what I understand, they've been through some rough times, and she needed a break, and something positive as the focus of her attention. There is nothing like a dog for that. And Holiday seemed to light up with her as well. She wagged her tail and walked off with her without even looking back. My feelings aren't hurt. I was glad to see that.

There were younger, cuter dogs there today. But I think that she and Holiday struck a chord in each other. There was a mutual need that the other could fill. So, anyone who thinks that I do this out of the goodness of my heart is full of crap. It's entirely selfish, it makes me feel good, and it's cheaper than therapy.

It was a good day all the way around. Jeep and Betty got some interest and Jeep was less shy than his first time out. I think Score may be getting a home this week or next weekend.