Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Road kill

Driving up to Gainesville on Sunday I spotted an all too common sight, a dog lying dead on the side of the road. This particular dog looked like a shepherd mix of the sort that I might have fostered. He was probably someone's well-loved pet. It's a sight that fills me with both sadness and anger. And resolve.

I know that shit happens. Bad things happen to good dogs and to good dog owners. No one is perfect and some dogs seem to go out of their way to endanger themselves, having little or no common sense or instinct for self-preservation. But I also know that many such tragedies could be avoided.

I know that an unneutered dog who gets the scent of a female in estrus in the springtime will abandon any little bit of common sense that he has and will follow that scent with only the nose and testicles engaged to guide him. I know that a dog left unattended outside without any sort of fence will become bored and will wander. I know that what seems like a long and therefore safe distance to a road to us, is nothing but a hop, skip, and a jump to a dog. I know that some dogs are smart about human dangers, and others require our protection.

So I remember dogs like this one when someone tells me that they can't bear to have their dog neutered. I will remember him when someone else tells me that they don't need a fence because they live in the country. I will sure remember him when someone comes wanting another dog because their last one got killed on the road and they just want another to try again.

My first German Shepherd Dog was a solid black female named Sasha, (pictured above, and to the left with a much younger me). She was the smartest shepherd I've ever known. I realized just how smart she was one day when I heard her crying as if she was hurt. I came running, of course, to find her lying in her usual spot looking out the sliding glass door onto our deck. She wasn't crying because she was hurt, she was simply making the noise that would summon me in the fastest way possible, not for herself, but because our cat, Shooz, was scratching at the door, wanting to come in. I realized I had been tricked by the dog, perhaps in conspiracy with the cat. Reflecting on it further, I came to the conclusion that I had not been tricked so much as trained.

Now, when I see a dead dog (or cat) lying on the road, I ask Sasha to make certain that someone comes to let the dog into Doggie Heaven. I know she can make it happen.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Papa Griff

On December 1, 2008, I wrote a blog post about Griff, The Thanksgiving Rottweiler. He is living the good life now (notice his shiny coat) and he has apparently decided to get into fostering and rescue work himself. The beneficiary of Griff's new undertaking is a young fox that was found as a stray.

I don't know the entire story, or much of it at all, but apparently he likes the little guy, perhaps because he's the only creature in the household who doesn't push Griff around.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Less dogs, more flowers

My goal for the weekend was to end up with less dogs and more flowers, and I think it may have happened. I took 5 dogs to the VGSR adoption event in Gainesville today. Hope, below, went home with a nice young couple on a trial, but she's a pretty easy dog so I expect it to work out. Her eyes have cleared up significantly in the past week and I think that the pannus will be easily controlled. The adopters have cats, however, so one never knows. Hope pretty much ignored the SPCA cats that we met when I pulled her from the shelter, but as they say with diet pills and real estate investment schemes, "results may vary."

The lilac, above, has been out all week and is about past its prime now, but the scent has been wonderful, especially combined with the snowball bush in the same area. The spirea, below, is just coming on now. It's one of my favorites, bringing back memories from my grandparents' farmhouse many years ago.

Bella, below, went home with a woman and two children after her son brought their other dog to meet her. This is the one that I really, really, really want to work out so maybe we can sleep past dawn around here. I explained the dog's food allergy, but I really think it will be manageable if she sticks to a grain-free food like EVO.

Samson, Teddy, and Brady rounded out our entourage today, and although they didn't get adopted, they did meet a lot of people. Brady was charming, Teddy was cute, and Samson was neurotically attached to me. There were a couple of people interested in Samson that I was not interested in. Hint: If you wear an NRA t-shirt to an adoption event, you will probably not be leaving with one of my dogs.

On the way home I picked up about 4 cubic feet of potting mix and a flat of bedding plants. It is time to get spring gardening underway. The flowering trees, shrubs, and early iris have been beautiful, but they will be finished in another week or so, and I'll need to get the container garden in motion if I want to see any color around here for the rest of the growing season.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Juggling dogs

Walking Emmylou and Molly is a pleasure. They have figured out the harness and rigging and know that they need to stay far enough apart to keep the ropes off the ground so they don't become entangled.

Walking Chance and Brady with the same equipment is a very different experience. They don't quite understand that the walk is the thing, and they want to play with each other as they go along. Chance wants to stop and piss on everything and then Brady wants to sniff it. The first 10 minutes or so were frustrating for all of us, but eventually they settled into the walk and we got along fairly well although I did have to give up on stringing them together and had to settle for using two separate leashes.

Back at home, and following Samson's lead, Chance has taken to getting out of the pasture fence and running across the road to play with the neighbors' dog and chase cars along the road. This will get them killed, either by the neighbor, a car, or me, so they are no longer getting out to run in the pasture at the same time. Consequently, Chance isn't getting enough exercise. I'm not getting enough exercise either, so walking will be good for both of us.

I'm going to try pairing up Brady with Bella. I hate that little bitch with her high-pitched, yippy, incessant bark. She will be fine once she's adopted, but she's a pain in the ass as a foster. She and Brady are fairly close in age, speed, and size, and Brady needs to be proven with a dog other than Chance or Samson. I would love to get Bella adopted soon, and I'm taking her to Gainesville on Sunday to a VGSR adoption event. She's eating EVO now and has no allergy problem that I can see, but she's not pooping a solid stool yet, so I don't think the chances of her getting adopted this weekend are great. But she needs to go soon, very soon.

Putting Brady with Bella means that I need to separate out little Teddy, because the Brady/Bella play is just too big and too rough for him at times. They aren't mean to him, but he cries when he gets stepped on and he gets stepped on a lot.

I've been keeping Hope in a crate in the office at night, and she loves it, never makes a sound and is content in there until morning. She has been going outside during the days (in a covered kennel that she can't climb out of), for some exercise, fresh air, sunshine, and a chance to poop and pee. Samson is staying in her kennel when he's not on the road with me doing Census work and I believe that she's having a beneficial effect on him. I have had no luck getting through to him, but she gives him a growl and puts him in his place when he gets acting really stupid and it has calmed, and quieted, him down a bit. If she can bring him into line, I'll be forever indebted to her.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Multiple adopters

If I adopt a dog to someone, chances are good that I like them well enough to adopt another to them at any time. There is really no finer compliment anyone can pay me than to come back to me for another dog when they have an opening or just want to expand their pack. There is one adopter who had three of our dogs at one time, two rottweilers and a shepherd, although one of the rotties has since passed away.

Ares (or Aries) is a rottie who was abandoned at a boarding kennel. The folks who run the kennel are wonderful dog people and are breeders of champion Anatolian Shepherds. They contacted the SPCA director who contacted me, etc. Ares was a great boy, but was stressing out in the kennel and was dropping weight like crazy. You can see how thin he is in the pictures above and he had scratched up his face on the kennel.

He was adopted by a wonderful couple who live up near Warrenton. They had previously adopted one of Lilly's rottie/dobie pups from me and they already had a saintly female rottie named Ebony, who took it upon herself to raise the puppy.

I'd glady give them any rottweiler I had, anytime they want one. Great rottie adopters are few and far between, but when you find one, they are the best. Here's a couple of recent pics of Ares, who is now a hefty 120 pounds of love.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cabell Dog

Someone asked about Cabell, specifically about his breed. That's a very good question. Actually, we know more about Cabell than we know about some mixed breed dogs because Cabell's mother was known and she was a Saint Bernard. What else has gone into Cabell's make up is pure conjecture, but it came out very nicely.

We got Cabell as a pup from Animal Connections, which is how we got involved with that group. We had Gypsy, Vito, and Jack in those days and had gone into Pet Supplies Plus in Charlottesville to buy food. Animal Connections was there and we ended up with Cabell. Really it was Clay's idea, not mine, to adopt another at that time. Gypsy needed a friend (someone to boss around) because Vito and Jack pretty much hung out together and tried to ignore her.

In writing this post, I realized I didn't have many good pictures of Cabell. When I took the camera downstairs to redress that problem, I discovered why. Cabell is very camera shy.

He has a wonderful, very toothy, smile, and a world class tail. He and Gypsy play very roughly, we call it Cabell-style play, but he doesn't hurt other dogs and he's sweet and gentle with everyone. He's a good dog to have on your side in a fight, however, and he will immediately jump to Gypsy's defense if she starts something with another dog.

Cabell leads the singing at our house. A group howl never really gets started unless he takes it up. He has a lovely voice, which blessedly, he uses sparingly. Cabell is also an excellent predictor of bad weather. When bad weather approaches he will retreat to the space under the stairway (the Cabell Cave) or into the tiny bathroom under the stairs where he tries to hide behind the toilet.

Because of his original foster home, he absolutely adores women and children, and the poor guy has neither in his life now. When we go to the vet, I make sure he sees a female vet and vet techs, because he's unbelievably cooperative with them.

Cabell is a dog we can take anywhere, but he's very low-key, mellow, and non-demanding. In horse terms, he's an "easy keeper." It's hard to believe, but he's nine years old now. He's showing some gray but looks good and seems very healthy. We love him.

One of Cabell's grandmothers used to speak disparagingly about his looks. I won't mention Clay's mother's name to spare her the angry emails, but we think he's very handsome. His coat is the color of a ripe wheat field and his eyes are like honey. What's not to like?

p.s. What's the story with the name, you ask? If you were from this part of Virginia you wouldn't need to ask. It's a fairly common name around here, both as a given name and as a surname.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Party animals

A good friend of mine had a party a couple weeks ago. He had it in the spring this year rather than summer to avoid the heat, managed to dodge a rain storm, and ended up with a beautiful spring day. Most everyone who knows me knows that I'm not generally keen on parties, but this one was different-- the canine guests easily outnumbered the people.

Clay was out of town or something, so I went alone. Well, not really alone, I took Emmylou and Cabell.

There were dogs everywhere. This was a big house, big deck, huge yard, but you couldn't walk anywhere without parting a sea of dogs. Incredibly, everyone got along. If there were any altercations, I never heard or saw it, although there was the potential for an epic dog fight. There was also a ton of food, which the dogs also seemed to leave alone. I can't turn my back on Bremo, our kitchen rottweiler, for a moment, but the dogs at the party seemed to be too busy socializing to pay much attention to the food.

Emmylou, of course, was in her element. She loves greeting everyone and she had several old friends in the crowd that she had to speak to. Cabell enjoyed it too. Cabell misses out on a lot of social events because he's Gypsy's pet and she doesn't see the need for social activities that involve any people outside the home. But Cabell likes people and other dogs, so I took him along.

Most of the dogs there were German Shepherds or mixes thereof, with a few other odds and ends thrown in. Cabell was unique and no one seemed surprised to learn that he was my dog. I'm not sure what to make of that.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Samson the Census Dog

My current Samson came from a young guy who moved to Virginia then got divorced. He was living with his mother, I think, and the dog was tied up outside, apparently not allowed in the house. He was sleeping in his car with the dog. After taking the dog into rescue I learned why. Samson's kennel manners are deplorable, I'd have to assume that his house manners are equally bad. His biggest problem, however, is his neediness. He must be with me constantly. When he's outside in a kennel, he barks constantly. I'm sure that's why the guy was sleeping with him in his car, it was the only way to shut him up. If that level of anxiety continues, I think that his adoption prospects will be very poor.

Putting off for now the question of Samson's future, I've found that it's better for me, Samson, and the other fosters if Samson accompanies me on my daily rounds for the Census Bureau. He rides in a crate right behind my seat. If I reach back and stick my fingers through the crate, his nose is always there ready to give me a lick or to accept a treat. He doesn't make a sound and is content in there for an 8 hour stretch. He's so quiet that I often forget that he's riding with me unless I hear him snoring. He's a great dog, very loyal and devoted, completely trustworthy off leash because he never wants to leave me. But those same traits make him a very difficult dog to foster. I've talked to a few folks about him that I've met while doing Census work, but no takers so far. Fortunately, my job just involves driving around from house to house, so he's never away from me. It's probably just feeding his addiction, but for right now, it seems to be the only workable solution.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tuesday, new Hope

Whew! I do not understand how anyone can manage having both a job and a life. I've been working 8 hour days, but the remaining 16 hours are not enough to get things done around here. And if you talk to my dogs, they will all tell you woeful tales of the neglect that has befallen them since I started working again. The great thing about the job with Lexis was that it was never an 8 hour a day job. Now, I'm gone from home for 8 hours, but that includes my "commute" since I'm really working out of my home, so it is still better than the hours that most people put into their jobs.

Spring mowing has begun, of course, which adds a big consuming chore. Spring rains mean more mud and dirt in the house, and the big spring fur blow out is beginning too, which means more time needs to spent keeping this place liveable. Today I worked 8-4 without a break for lunch so I could get into town when the stores were still open and to get over to the SPCA so I could meet and bring home a new female German Shepherd named Hope. By the time I got home, got everyone fed, and got Hope collared, tagged, wormed, fed, and de-bugged, the evening was gone even before I started on the email. No pics of Hope yet, maybe tomorrow.

The news has been a mixed bag. Good news was received from (the former, not current) Samson (upper right) and from Destiny (above, left). I also received a nice phone call reporting that Jeep is doing well. Dax's mom sent pics and referred someone to me who may be interested in adopting. If they were all like Dax (right) and his sister Celia, it would be easy.

Sad news comes inevitably in this line of work as well. A former foster named Malcolm recently died. Malcolm was a mature, if not senior, dog when he was adopted. He went to a loving and caring home where he lived a dog's fantasy life until the end. I'm always particularly happy when older dogs get the very best of homes. People who dump senior dogs or dogs with medical problems deserve to one day find themselves dumped into the cheapest, nastiest nursing home when they are old. Karma is a bitch and dog karma will bite you on the butt, hard.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ginger's visit

We have had a boarder here for the week. Ginger is a young female shepherd that I had fostered and adopted to a family here in Charlottesville. She wasn't quite perfect when she was first adopted, but she apparently is now, or at least close enough. She's actually a pretty small girl, which is fine since she's in a family with children. Ginger is as sweet as she can be, which is a rare trait in a female shepherd. I love my female shepherd, but "sweet" isn't a word that many people would use to describe her. Ginger is sweet, however, and she has had a great time playing with Bella and Teddy this week.

Ginger is the biggest of the three, being about twice Bella's size and about four times the size of little Teddy, but all three dogs have gotten along very well. They play together and sleep together too. Ginger scales her play style to match that of the smaller dogs and Teddy has learned that big dogs are big fun, and nice to snuggle with too.

Ginger has a great home and she will be going back there later this week, but it has been fun to have her around. Staying here is not a bad life for a dog in the spring or summer. It's sort of like summer camp--living outdoors, lots of play and group activities, a chance to be a dog for a while before returning to the cushy life.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Jumping for joy

It's been over a week since I posted anything. That is mostly because of the new job, which kept me very busy last week. I'm hoping that it will begin to settle down into a more manageable routine this coming week so I can get back to things like blogging, cleaning, and mowing. The other reason for my blogging silence is my newly discovered time waster, a sim world called Second Life.

Our old computer was dieing a slow and painful death so we got a replacement from Dell. About the time of its arrival, I saw a story on TV about a couple who had met online in this simulation world called Second Life. I wanted to see what it was about and I thought it would be a good test of our new computer's speed and graphics ability. Second Life is a computer generated virtual world. It is free to join although you can end up spending money there as well. You select an avatar, generally a human-like figure that represents you, and you can move about the world interacting with other people, either by typed messages representing speech or with your own voice if your computer supports that, which our new one does.

Second Life is referred to as SL and real life is referred to as RL. It is used by different people for different purposes. There are gamers on there of course, generally young people. There are also people who have no social life in RL and use SL for that purpose. I talked to one woman who said that her RL sucked and SL was about the only pleasure she had. Rather sad, of course, but without it she would be in an even worse condition. It's an escapist, fantasy world for many people, an opportunity for them look, say, and do things that they couldn't or just wouldn't do in RL.

Perhaps I just haven't gotten into the spirit of the thing, but what has been interesting for me is how much my SL is like my RL. There are differences, of course. For an avatar I chose a 20-something guy named Sparky. He is taller than me and better looking, with broader shoulders, bigger arms, and a much flatter stomach. I've re-worked his "skin", which constitutes a combination of features such as hair, eyes, and facial features. When I find a look I like better, I can change it with a few mouse clicks, no diet and exercise required.

Changing personality characteristics doesn't come so easily, however. When Sparky goes to a bar in SL, he doesn't dance; he sits by himself and doesn't talk to anyone. He soon becomes bored and leaves. That was pretty much my bar-going experience when I was single in RL as well. So what did I do? I found the Virtual Kennel Club and adopted a virtual dog.

These pics are of Sparky (me) and Tackle (the rottweiler). Tackle is smart and very well trained. Unlike my dogs in RL, my SL dog will heel, sit, stay, and perform a wide variety of tricks and behaviors that I am just beginning to learn. If I don't keep him under control he will wander off and has gotten lost a few times already. However, no one can take him or harm him; I can track him and call him back; and if he falls off the edge of a sim he is always returned safely to me. Tackle is a rescue and he already had the name, but I love it and I think I'll use that name for my next unnamed male rottie in RL.

The other nice thing about adopting Tackle is that I met a man named Vitolo in the process. Vito is the dog trainer who runs this particular sim in SL. In RL, Vito is profoundly disabled as a result of a traumatic brain injury. He has dogs in RL too, of course, including a service dog. He uses the dog training and rescue operation in SL as a way to interact with people and to make SL a positive experience for them. He's not the creator or programmer of the dogs, but he teaches people how to use them and enjoy them. Apparently Tackle has Schutzhund (protection) training as well, and I've joined a working dogs training group led by Vito on SL to learn about what he can do.

I don't know that I'll take up Schutzhund training as a hobby in SL, although it will give me some exposure to it, which may help at some point in RL. Mostly Tackle and I travel around various sims where dogs are allowed. We once wandered into a cat place that excluded Tackle automatically so I had to reclaim him from the lost and found. More people have talked to Sparky since he got Tackle and it provides an opening and topic of conversation. It also weeds out people who don't like dogs, which is fine because I don't have much use for those people in SL or RL.

I got Sparky a set of movements that includes the ability to leap into the air. I did it once in front of Tackle and he did the same thing. It seems that you can encourage certain behaviors by telling him he's a good dog when he does them, so Tackle now jumps a lot. He moves a lot like our Molly in RL, bounding from place to place with much enthusiasm. I call it jumping for joy. Tackle has made Sparky very happy. We are now looking to buy a piece of land where we can pitch a tent, maybe put up a log cabin, and then probably take in a few more dogs.