Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A rare moment

I was sitting here this evening, opened the blog to start a post and realized I didn't have anything to say. That is a rare occurrence, but it won't prevent me from rambling on long enough to fill up some white space next to these recent pictures.

The pictures are from a former foster. His name was Diego when we had him, and he is now called Tevya. He is probably the goofiest shepherd we've ever had and the only one who can make our Zachary look like a serious, scholarly type. Tevya's new daddy has the same shit-eating grin on his face most of the time and it was clear that they were made for each other.

In the beginning, on more than one occasion he would come home to find that Tevya had shredded his new dog bed. (See, "Adoption Updates," December 16, 2008.) He didn't dump the dog, he just got another bed. Perhaps he gave up with the dog beds because most of the recent pictures have shown Teyva either on a sofa with his head laid on a pillow or on the real bed that he obviously shares with Dad.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sparky makes me smile

If you read my post from April 5, 2009 ("Jumping for Joy"), you will know that I joined a sim community called Second Life where I am represented by an avatar named Sparky, who has a rottweiler named Tackle. Sparky is one of my favorite dog names because I find that it is impossible to say the name without smiling. It's just an inherently happy name. It makes me smile when I say it in spite of the fact that I'm not a particularly smiley person. That's just the way it is. I'm not bubbly and never will be. There's a line from a Bonnie Raitt song I've always found particularly apt for myself: "It takes a whole lot of medicine, darling, for me to pretend that I'm somebody else."

One thing that does always make me smile, however, is a happy rottweiler. VGSR President Lea Spickler once said to me that she likes rotties because they smile with both ends of their body. That is a spot on description. On one end of the dog there is a big, wide, open-mouthed grin with perky ears and very expressive eyes. At the other end of a happy rottie is a wiggling butt and a short stubby tail, wagging for all it's worth. Rottie tails have more wag per inch than any other breed of dog.

So, after using the names Sparky and Tackle in Second Life, I decided to use the names for future rottweiler fosters. Our new Sparky came from the Fluvanna SPCA last week. I had met him the day that I came home with Jake and Friskie (See, May 12, 2009, "Why I don't go to shelters"). He's young, pretty wild, and has some male aggression issues, but he has a happy face and a happy butt, so he became Sparky. When we get in a rottie with a bulkier build, he will be called Tackle.

He had come to the shelter along with a female rottie that I suspect is his mother. He was extremely attached to her and we needed to break that bond so he could learn to interact with other dogs. He spent the first day in a single kennel, but he was Barky Sparky by himself, so the next day I opened the gate and he moved in with Chance, Samson, and Friskie. He and Chance have had a few skirmishes, but have gotten along for the most part. Chance has mostly protected his position as alpha male of that kennel, but Sparky did put a pretty good cut in his leg yesterday when the stupid male stuff flared up. Sparky was neutered on Monday, something that should have happened a year ago or even sooner. He should settle down over the next few weeks and I think he will prove to be a great dog. He reminds me a lot of Bruce, a similar looking rottie or rottie mix that we had here for quite a while. Bruce had the same sort of attitude problem when he arrived as a poorly socialized, intact male, but he turned into a real sweetheart of a dog.

I'm sure that an adopter will change his name, but I'm hoping that Sparky will be making other people smile for many years to come.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A pretty good day

I took 4 dogs to a VGSR adoption event in Gainesville today. Samson went because there were several people who had emailed me about wanting to meet him there. I had my doubts about them all and those doubts proved to be true.

However, I had also been exchanging emails and phone messages from a guy in Richmond about Samson. He's retired, both he and his wife are at home with their two college-age children for the summer. They all came over this evening to meet him after we were back from Gainesville. He was a hit and I expect to be taking him to meet their other two rescue dogs one day this week. Assuming that all goes well, and I expect that it will, Samson will be in a great home that is well suited to his needs.

I also took Friskie today. She was sweet, friendly, laid back, and generally very well behaved. She's one that I brought home from the Fluvanna SPCA a week or so ago. We met a few somewhat interested people, and one couple that she would be perfect for, if they come around to that realization.

Even if that doesn't happen, I think she will be relatively easy to place in spite of being not quite a shepherd. She really has a great temperament and is a better choice for many people than a pure bred shepherd. She is getting spayed tomorrow along with Filly.

Tippy was a big hit today. If I could clone her, I could have adopted her a half dozen times. She was cute, sweet, friendly, and playful.

She ended up riding home next to me in the front passenger seat and she was great for the entire trip home.

She is scheduled to have the treatment for her heartworms on Wednesday this week. I think I've chosen her new owners from all the people who wanted her today. They were content to wait until she is fully recovered. She will definitely be worth the wait.

Today's fourth dog was Chance. I like to take Chance because he really likes to go. Chance really knows how to work the crowd. He's sweet, charming, and cuddly, and he found an interested adopter today. She was so interested that she drove down to our house late this afternoon with her boyfriend's dog (a female shepherd) to make sure that they would get along. The two dogs were ok together but didn't really engage with one another.

She had some doubts because of Chance's size and lack of household experience, and I did too. Since I am never without a suitable alternative, I introduced her to today's surprise dog, Marine. Marine was returned today from a prior adopter. I had agreed to take him in because his former foster home had a new foster dog and really couldn't cope with more than one. However, I had completely forgotten that Marine was coming back today, so I brought home 5 dogs after taking up 4.

Marine's original owner had committed suicide, and his loving family had decided to euthanize his dog. He was first adopted out to a young cop who liked the idea of having a German Shepherd more than the reality of actually having a dog (I don't much care for cops as adopters generally.) Marine is a young male and is very good looking. The woman who had come down to meet with Chance recognized him as a better choice and he proved the point by being very outgoing and friendly, particularly with the female shepherd she had brought along.

The female shepherd had not been well socialized with other dogs since she was a puppy and she really didn't know what to make of this young male dog who kept trying to get her to play. He was persistent, but patient, and she was at least interested enough to tolerate him. I think they will be very good for each other.

I've finished out the week with 10 fosters, but with very good prospects for placing two of them at least, so today was a pretty good day.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The new bitch in town

The next to last posting said that I was getting a new female shepherd. It's been a week now since I've had her. When I can remember her name, we are calling her Filly, in honor of Rachel Alexandra, the filly who won this year's Preakness by out running all the boys. She came from a shelter in southwest Virginia, about 6, 8, maybe 10 months old, cute, sweet, and pretty as can be. I moved her right in with Brady and Teddy, and a few days later added Tippy to the mix. She and Tippy look so much alike that I rely on the collars to differentiate them. Filly's brown is a bit more red than Tippy's, but they are about the same size, shape, and color.

Their disposition is quite different, however. Tippy is sweet and pretty mellow even though she is young and energetic. Filly is a bitch in training. She gets along with the other dogs, but only because they do what she says. The first picture is when she first met and moved in with Brady and Teddy. Notice her ears, perked up and forward, and her tail is held high, a sign of confidence, which is really over confidence when first meeting new dogs and moving into their territory. Brady, on the other hand, has his ears back in a more submissive posture. The next picture is Tippy and Brady at the water barrel. It's a little bit subtle, but Tippy is raising her lips and baring her teeth at rottie-chow mix Brady. The subtlety was not lost on Brady. If it was a male dog doing that, they would have had it out, but the girl dog gets away with it, and she always will.

She also demonstrated some food aggression towards the other dogs, so I made a point of playing Big Dog myself, and moving in on her food, putting my hand in the bowl, and taking it away from her, and even biting (pinching) her in the process. Fortunately, she submitted to me doing that so really all we have is a dog-on-dog manners problem. She's still a puppy and is very trainable. She nuzzles up to strangers for attention and affection, so she's going to be a good dog, but she's going to be a bitch in every sense of the word. If not properly placed, she will be returned in 4-6 months as she grows into the role of Alpha Bitch. She needs a home that understands the breed and the female of the breed in particular.

Speaking of the Alpha Bitch, here is my Gypsy. I've mentioned her a few times. She's the Queen B around here, and the B stands for Bitch. It's not an insult, it's a title she wears as proudly as any beauty queen wears her sash and tiara. Gypsy is getting up in age, probably 12 years now, but she is the undisputed leader of the pack. She would prefer I had another hobby, but she is an indispensable part of the rescue operation, making sure that all the foster dogs stay where they belong and giving me an immediate and unmistakable alert if anyone gets out.

Filly could become another Gypsy if given half a chance. As much as I love Gypsy, that is something that really needs to be avoided. Gypsy requires constant vigilance and would never have made it in the home of a casual dog owner. With proper training and the proper person, Filly will be wonderful. In the wrong hands, she will be trouble.

The prick Michael Vick

It will be virtually impossible to write this without a long string of profanity, so I won't even try.

The sub-human piece of shit that is Michael Vick was released from prison this week to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest.

Now, personally, I was hoping that the bastard would be killed in prison or a least have a life-changing encounter with the Aryan Nation while he was there, but apparently he survived unscathed. A pity.

I am dumbfounded by the fact that he has apparently struck a deal with the Humane Society of the United States to do some sort of outreach program to urban youth. I think that the highest and best use for Michael Vick would be to have his head paraded through inner cities on a pike. If he is ever picked up by an NFL team again, that team can expect the same reaction that he receives from decent, dog-loving people anywhere.

I still remember Vick's public mea culpa after he was arrested and failed to bribe, bluff, and bully his way out of the charges. He apologized to his friends, family, teammates, and to Jesus, but not a word about the dogs he killed and brutalized. As my sister said in an email to me then, "Which kennel was Jesus in?"

Friday, May 15, 2009

Updates on the new guys

Sorry, no pics because I'm away from my home computer as I write this.

Tippy was spayed on Tuesday and bounced back from the surgery like the young dog that she is. She never missed a meal and didn't even seem to need the pain killers they sent home with her. Her only problem from the surgery has been her disappointment in not being allowed to play with Brady and Teddy, but I think I'll put them all back together tomorrow.

Friskie is loving life with Samson and Chance. She has really livened things up in that kennel. Friskie loves being out of the shelter and having room to run and other dogs to play with. Samson and Chance needed someone capable of handling the collective brain that all dogs share when they are in groups of two or more. She's happy, so they are happy. The food intake has increased in that kennel by more than would be expected for the addition of just one more dog. They are playing more and eating more.

Shy, scared, Jake is slowly, ever so slowly, coming around. He still moves away from me when I go into his kennel, but not as far or as fast as he did at first. He will look at me now, and I'm getting that look that says: "I'd like to be your friend, but I don't quite trust you yet." I'm going to reintroduce Tippy to the Brady/Teddy kennel tomorrow, and then soon try opening the gate between that kennel and the one where Jake is hunkered down. Once he becomes part of a pack, they should help him come around.

Tomorrow I'm picking up a new dog--another young, female shepherd.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mental health in rural Virginia

My job with the Census Bureau is winding down, probably at the end of this week. I don't yet know if I'll be picked up for any future phases of the project or when it is likely to happen. It's been interesting, to say the least. All of my work has involved address canvassing in rural areas. I've met some nice people, some interesting people, and some anti-social people. Today's interesting episode wasn't an encounter with a person, but with a handwritten sign that discouraged anyone from coming onto his land.
It read:

Trespasers will be persecuted to the full extent of 2 mugrel dogs
which never was over sociable to strangers and 1 dubble brl shot gun which aint loaded with sofa pillers. Dam if I aint gitten tired of this Hell rasin on my place.
[I wrote it down to be sure to get the spelling as it was on the sign.]

I sat in my car and read this, laughing my ass off, with my current Census partner, Cindy, who had already been shot at a few weeks ago by another rural whacko. (After the second shooting incident in our district, they started sending us out in pairs.) We didn't go any further, the job simply doesn't pay enough to risk even a flat tire when trying to locate people who really don't want to be found. This encounter was really just amusing, but what has been really disturbing is the discovery of the level of fear, paranoia, xenophobia, and undiagnosed mental illness that exists in rural areas.

I have encountered house after house with tightly closed blinds and drawn curtains in the middle of the day, and people who will not answer the door. People are living isolated, insular lives, shut off as much as possible from the outside world because they fear it. They sit at home in a dark house, or trailer, listening to Rush Limbaugh fanning the flames of fear on the radio and probably going to church on Sunday to hear a tax exempt charlatan repeating the same lines, preying on the ignorance demonstrated by the sign above and spreading fear that makes the weakminded into brainless followers looking for a hero or a savior to protect them from Acorn, fluoridated water, godless liberals, or the "gov'ment."

In poor black areas, I've encountered some suspicion, but never hostility. Once I've explained my purpose, I've been welcomed and treated civilly. The households that always worry me most are those of poor, middle class, or even well-to-do white trash that still have Bush/Cheney bumperstickers on their vehicles -- they don't have McCain stickers, it is clear that they still think that the Bush/Cheney regime was America at its best. That, I submit, is a sure sign of mental illness.

I don't have any pictures appropriate to the subject matter to post here, (I sure wish I'd had my camera along today to get a picture of that sign), so I've posted a few lawn and garden pics from this spring.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why I don't go to shelters

I always prefer to take a foster that someone else has found and I really prefer it if someone else pulls the dog from the shelter and either brings it to me or meets me somewhere. Going to a shelter is tricky business for me because I rarely leave without "extra" dogs. Yesterday I got a call from the new director of the Fluvanna SPCA. That's my local county's shelter and I know they've had some tough times lately even though a dedicated core group of volunteers has been struggling for years to do their best to keep the shelter going and to avoid unnecessary euthanization. It is difficult in rural counties where the shelter is underfunded and the population has more than its share of low class, no class, inbred, mouth breathing, knuckledragging, cousin-marrying rednecks.

Anyway, the new director called me yesterday to ask if I'd come in to help them evaluate two rottweilers. I did so today. The rotties were fine and I agreed to take one in a week. Not bad so far.

Then I saw Jake. He was huddled in the back of his run, obviously scared to death, and apparently he had been that way ever since he came in to the shelter. He had virtually no chance of getting out of there and because of his level of fear, there was a very legitimate concern about whether or not he could safely be placed. I went in, dropped a slip lead over his head and pretty much dragged him out to an outdoor fenced area. He was terrified, but eventually decompressed a bit. When we left him alone, we went exploring the area and even had his tail up. I brought him home as an Animal Connections dog. He's still terrified, but he is securely ensconced in a large kennel of his own and has hunkered down in a straw-filled igloo doghouse for the night.

I fed him some canned food and made a point of loving on Teddy and Brady in the adjacent kennel while he was watching. We will see, but I'm hopeful that he will come around. He looks like a golden mix of some sort and should be quite adoptable once he comes out of his shell.

Then they told me about a shepherd mix named Friskie. She's got the body, coat, and coloring of a shepherd, but the head of lab or hound. Great looking dog, nice as can be. I had seen her several months ago when I was in there about another dog, but she looked so bad then I would never have guessed that this was the same dog. She was thin, full of worms, heartworm positive, and just looked sad, pathetic, and beaten down. It's a tribute to the staff and management at the Fluvanna SPCA that they saw her potential and saved her. The shelter staff loves her, said she was the best dog in there--housetrained totally, good with other dogs (but not cats), good with kids. She was their longest term resident. She came home with me as a VGSR dog.

She reminds me a lot of Destiny (that same wrinkled brow)and I imagine that this is what Destiny might have looked like with good care earlier in her life. (See Destiny in the 12/9/08 posting, "Tragedy's Silver Lining"). Although her inclusion in the German Shepherd rescue group might offend some purists, both inside and outside the organization, no one who's opinion matters will care one whit that she's less than "pure bred." She moved right in with Chance and Samson and I think she will be a good addition to that unruly crew.

There's a few more incoming dogs on the horizon, so I hope to move some out soon to make room. One recent arrival I expected to move quickly was Tippy. She got vaccinated and spayed today and I probably could have placed her this weekend or next, but, she tested positive for heartworms so she will be with me for a couple of months unless I can find an adopter who is prepared to see her through it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

How NOT to do an adoption event

I went to Gainesville today for a VGSR adoption event. I took up two dogs, Chance and Samson, and came back with three. That's not the way it's supposed to be done.

I started out with Chance and Samson, the latter being my only VGSR dog at the moment. We stopped at the Orange County shelter where we picked up a scrawny little mixed breed female who was going to another foster. I stopped at his house and swapped out the Orange County girl for a 9 month old female who had been surrendered by a backyard breeder. Her name is Tippy. We proceeded along to Gainesville where we were short-handed, so Samson and Chance took turns alternating between the adoption event and the van.

Samson still doesn't show any interest in people other than me, but Chance on the other hand was the model of sociability. He really likes people and he gives a great hug if he's given even half a chance to jump up on someone. He's a great dog except for the fact that he has no manners. But that's really my fault more than anyone else's at this point. He just needs some work.

The new girl, Tippy, is cute, sweet, and very smart. She's food driven, and is crazy about a ball. I don't think she will be hard to place, but I do want her to go to a home where at least one person in the home is her intellectual equal. Otherwise, there will be trouble.

She would be a great agility dog, or a great anything. She's friendly, energetic, playful - pretty typical young shepherd girl. The ball drive and food focus will make her easy to train.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

What would Scooby do?

One of the bumperstickers on the DART (Dog Adoption & Rescue Transport), reads "What Would Scooby Do?" Along with the other bumpersticker ("Dog is My C0-Pilot") it's mostly a jibe at the religious reich while also evidencing my canine addiction problem. Today's Scooby encounter was more literal, however.

Dr. Steven Epstein and his staff at the Animal Hospital of Ivy Square in Charlottesville ( hosted an adoption event and fundraiser for Animal Connections. A very kind person donned the Scooby-Do costume on a hot and humid day and worked the street, attracting people to stop in and meet the dogs. There was a silent auction with donated items, a dog wash, hamburgers and hotdogs, door prizes, face painting, Teddy Bear Surgery, and many other activities. It was a hot and humid day, but at least it didn't rain.

I went with Brady and Teddy. Brady loved it, Teddy hated it. I really need to get Teddy better socialized. Brady discovered that most people had food or at least had food available to them. He's cute and he knows it and he works it. Brady had a bath, lots of popcorn, a hotdog, and part of a hamburger.

Teddy has become a lot friendlier towards me at home, and is more confident generally now that he's bunking with Brady, but he pretty much shut down out in public. He was actually better last week with the shepherd group than he was today. He was sweet and cute, of course, and everyone loved him, but not many people want to take home a shy guy (believe me, I know). It's ok, he's got a home here as long as he needs it, but I've got to do better by him and get him better socialized so he can find a home.

Thanks to Dr. Epstein and all the staff who obviously put in a lot of time and effort to make this a successful event. I know that at least two of the Animal Connections dogs seemed to be on the way to having new homes at the time I left today.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Conehead Cabell

Cabell managed to tear out most of the staples on the top of his head last night, probably just by scratching with his paw. The night before just one was missing, but this morning nearly all of them were gone. Clay took him to the vet early this morning and left him for the day.

They drugged him up and sewed him up, and sent him home with a cone on his head to keep him from tearing out the stitches. He hates it. He's been hanging his head as if it's a 20 pound weight instead of a light plastic collar. And he has the saddest little whimper, not from pain, I think, but just because he's unhappy with the situation.

I had to hold his food and water bowls this evening to show him it was still possible to eat and drink, but he will figure it out soon enough. He's hunkered down in the Cabell Cave this evening and we all are glad he's home again.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Big Brother Brady

When I first moved Brady over to the kennel with Bella and Teddy, I was separating Teddy when I wasn't around to supervise because he was always getting stepped on when the bigger dogs would play. That only lasted a day or two, and then Bella got adopted, so Brady has taken over the role of Teddy's older sibling. He's part role model, part playmate, the perfect big brother. The new relationship has been good for both of them.

Teddy has become more sociable with people (me), because Brady is fearless whereas Bella would sometimes run and hide from me (generally because I was pissed at her obnoxious yippy voice.) Brady has learned to scale down his play style to a level more appropriate for a smaller dog, which is always a good trait to have.

Following Brady's lead, Teddy has learned to climb on the platforms in the kennels and dog yard and has learned that he can protect his food from a much larger dog if necessary. Brady has learned to share his food, which is a big step for a dog who was once food aggressive.

I couldn't get a picture of it, but they are adorable when they are sitting side-by-side, perched on one of the elevated platforms watching me filling food bowls or getting ready for work.

They are a great, if somewhat unlikely, pair of dogs.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Chance and Samson's Sunday outing

Last Sunday I went to an adoption event at the Petsmart in Richmond. VGSR had been invited by the manager to participate in Petsmart's annual adoptathon that weekend. Sunday was the only day I could go and no one else volunteered, so I went alone with Samson, currently my only VGSR dog, and Chance, who was an honorary shepherd for the day.

Another group, BARK, was there and they had more shepherds than I did. Samson was his usual neurotic self, completely attached to me and not even very interested in anyone else. I had pulled the muscles in my lower back the day before, so I was in no shape to sit, stand, or hold a dog, but we managed to stick it out for 3 hours.

I was pleasantly surprised with Chance. He really enjoyed the people and other dogs, and I think mostly he enjoyed just being out someplace new. Chance has been kenneled for most of his life without a lot of worldly experiences. He's been great when I take him on walks and on Sunday he proved that he can be great in a crowd of strange people and dogs. I've got to start getting him out more, and I can now that I have fewer fosters. I think he will make someone a very nice dog.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Yesterday evening Cabell came in from his romp in the pasture and time in the dog yard with a rather obvious part in the hair on the top of his head. I gave it a superficial look and could tell that he'd cut himself but it wasn't actively bleeding so I didn't worry much about it. My main theory is that it happened on a protruding nail on the dog yard gate that opens into the pasture. The dogs crowd around that gate and burst through as soon as I open it like horses out of a starting gate. I've long thought that it was an accident waiting to happen, but I hadn't done anything about it. The other possibility is that he hit the fence out along the road because I heard the wire fence rattle against the boards when they ran out there, as they always do, to bark at the dog across the street.

This morning he had something oozing down the side of his face that had obviously come from the cut. I had Clay take a look (I'm extremely squeamish about wounds on dogs), and then we headed into town for an unscheduled visit to the vet. It was Saturday, there was only one vet working today, and they were swamped. But we waited patiently and I'm glad we did. The cut was deeper than anyone thought, and although it wasn't bleeding actively, it definitely needed to be closed up.

Cabell loves people, and he adores women in particular. The vet and all the techs were female so he let them do everything that had to be done without needing to be muzzled, sedated, or even restrained beyond me holding him in a firm hug. He should be called Cabell The Good, but with the staples in his head the name Frankendoggie comes to mind. He was due for an exam, vaccines, and blood work anyway, so we got it all done while we were there. We stopped at McDonalds on the way home and he had a hamburger of his own and part of mine. He deserved it after a very rough morning.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Emmylou's unauthorized walkabout

About once a year, always in the spring, Emmylou gets so carried away with hunting that she jumps out of the pasture fence and takes a stroll around the neighborhood. It happened Monday or Tuesday of this week. I was trying to get out of here to get to work. I had let Emmy, Molly, and Zachary out to the dog yard after Cabell, Gypsy, and Bremo were back inside. Emmy and Molly went over the gate to the pasture as they always do. (Molly likes to poop in private.) Zachary won't jump the fence so he runs around the dog yard and barks.

The girls do their business, patrol the pasture a bit, and would usually come back in with Zachary. But this particular morning Emmylou didn't come back in with Molly and Zachary. I blame it on the spring crop of bunnies.

She hunts through the tall grass, scares up rabbits, moles, field rats, or whatever is there and then gives chase. The greyhound in her just loves to chase them and she can still get over the pasture fence even though it's about 4.5' high. She doesn't go far, and she is smart enough to get back home, but I can't stand to have her loose, especially when I'm trying to leave for work. She slowly worked her away around the property, generally staying within sight and hearing range, but when I'd call, she would turn away and pretend not to hear.

Finally, I spotted her across the road at the edge of the woods. I brought the van down to the end of the driveway and opened up the back as if we were going somewhere. She saw it and came running, and hopped into the van. She's smart, so I don't know how often that trick will work.

She has been on activity restriction since then, getting out to the dog yard and pasture only when I have time to stay out there with her and watch. We've only managed a couple of walks this week, but today we took a good long one on the Fluvanna Heritage Trail with Molly, where we met some people, which Emmylou loves. The walk was followed by a run in the pasture with the boys and a dip in the water tank to cool down.

As always, there was much rejoicing when Clay came home.