Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chance's big day

I took Chance and Gemma to the VGSR adoption event in Gainesville on Sunday. Gemma has a choice of several good homes, which it good for her, but tough on me and the people who don't get her. But that is my problem, not hers. All dogs should be so lucky.
We also had a reunion of sorts, a reunion of two of my former fosters anyway. Both were adopted by VGSR volunteers, and I really love placing my dogs with our volunteers because I know them and I know their level of committment to the dogs. The handsome hunk of dog on the left is Liedo, formerly known as Cypher. In the center is the lovely and talented Gemma, and on the right is Britta, another beautiful, female shepherd. Both Liedo and Britta came out of local shelters and ended up in really great homes. Needless to say, I didn't have them long.
But the day really belonged to Chance, who went home with a family on a trial. As I've said before, Chance really works the crowd at an adoption event. He's a natural politician, kissing babies and hugging everyone within leash range.
He's got two boys of his own and experienced parents, so I think it stands a good chance of working out. I sure hope so. Chance is a great dog, he just needs a chance to the right home.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Hard luck pup

This is Pi. Don't ask me about the name, I didn't give it to him. I went to the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA today seeking a favor. I needed to get Gemma vaccinated. (She was returned this week, apparently not so good with the small dog that would be living in the same home.) I didn't have a clean or really current set of medical records for her, so I just had all the shots repeated, along with a heartworm test.

I foolishly asked if they had any dogs that I should look at. Pi was in a run by himself in isolation pending the results of a ringworm test. He was cool and comfy, but bored, so I brought him home. This place is many things to a dog, but it is rarely boring.

From the amount of hair lost on his muzzle, and a few other spots on his body, I would bet a fair amount of money on Pi testing positive for ringworm. Having ringworm when you are a puppy really sucks, because it means that you can't romp and play with other pups, or anyone else really.

I'll dip him in that nasty smelling, but very effective lyme/sulfur dip, and he will soon be on the road to recovery.

He's young and will recover from it quickly, but the protocol for testing and re-testing for ringworm means that he would be in isolation for quite a while. Not a great way to spend your puppyhood, so he came home with me.

It was a day for hard luck experiences. On the way home coming through Charlottesville, I encountered a young woman panhandling at an exit off the bypass. I lived and worked in D.C. for enough years to have developed an immunity to the pathetic looks of most panhandlers. Something about this young woman struck me, however. She didn't look like a drunk, drug-addict, or anything like that. She actually looked fairly decent although the afternoon in the sun and heat had obviously taken their toll. She was holding the requisite hand-written, cardboard sign, which read: "Not making it, please help."

I think that my own situation (still unemployed) gave me some empathy for the woman's situation, although I had no real idea what set of circumstances had brought her to that exit ramp. It was sort of the "there but for the grace of god, go I" feeling. I rolled down my window, motioned her over, and gave her a dollar. Not enough to really help her in the long run, but it's pretty hard to worry about the long run when you are facing immediate problems.

Gemma, Pi, and I came on home, feeling relatively lucky. Pi's ringworm will clear up, Gemma will find a home again soon, and even the flat tire I discovered on the van when I got home is a pretty easy fix.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Easy come, easy go

Gemma and Justin both came in this past week, Gemma just on Friday. Both were in prospective new homes by the end of the weekend. They were both beautiful and highly adoptable dogs so I expected them to turn over quickly, and they did.

A young couple from northern Virginia drove down on Saturday afternoon anxious to meet Gemma. They are great folks and will be a great home for her, so I'm hoping that everything goes well. They are taking in a small dog from retiring parents that Gemma will need to adapt to, but they are young, active people that should be a great home for Gemma. I had her for less than 24 hours and I'm glad because she was accustomed to being in a home and needed to get back into one as soon as possible.

Justin went home from the VGSR adoption event in Sterling on Sunday. He has to demonstrate that he can live with cats and make friends with the other dog in the home. The cat thing seems to be going pretty well based on this picture that I received last night. The folks who took him home had adopted a senior shepherd from me some time ago. Malcom died fairly recently and they've been looking for a new companion for their other dog. I think that anyone who has adopted a senior dog walks on water, so I've been looking for a cat-friendly dog for them for a while now.

Gemma and Justin will have wonderful homes if these placements work out, but even if they don't, both dogs will have plenty of good applicants eager to give them homes. All dogs should be so lucky.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A gem

Service Dogs of Virginia (http://www.servicedogsva.org/) is an organization in Charlottesville that trains and places dogs with individuals in need of a working companion. As would be expected, not every dog that goes through the training program succeeds. Such was the case with Gemma. Although she was raised from a pup by volunteers with the organization, she didn't develop all the characteristics needed to excel in that line of work.

Primarily, Gemma lacked confidence out in public, in new situations, and particuarly when encountering new dogs. She performed well in the training center but was not dependable in the field. She also has a prey drive towards cats that would be problematic for a service dog. Those dogs have to be "bomb proof" -- so confident and directed that nothing phases them or distracts them from task. Gemma is not that dog.

Her owner/breeder released the dog to VGSR and she is my latest foster. Although she didn't make it as a service dog, the training she has had far exceeds that of 99% of the dogs I normally encounter, including my own. She is also beautiful, which never hurts when you are trying to attract attention and find a home. Gemma will be a short-timer in foster care. I have one home in mind for her already, and if that doesn't happen, putting her picture on the web will bring more emails and requests than I really want to handle.

She also happens to be very similar in appearance to Justin, my newest male foster shepherd. They look like they could be brother and sister. The pic to the left is Justin, a very handsome dog in spite of the one floppy ear. He is more red than he appears in the picture, pretty much the same color as Gemma and both dogs have nice heads and very dark faces.

Below is a picture of the two dogs together when they first met yesterday evening. You can see the similarities in their body shape, coat, and markings even though Gemma's face isn't visible here. They got along fine, he was glad for the company and she had no trouble showing him what she would and would not tolerate from him.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New fosters

Last week I brought home a sweet but shy female named Birdie. She's the probable dobie/pit mix on the right in the picture below, and she wasn't doing well at the shelter. She was scared to death, but she didn't seem to be a fear biter. Nevertheless, she wasn't going to do well being put up for adoption because she would bark ferociously as stangers approach her. The good news is that it doesn't seem to take much to move from "stranger" to "trusted friend." I brought her home as a foster from the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA to see if I can get her better socialized. Ideally, I'd like to get her to the point that she's not scared of strangers and then return her to the SPCA to be adopted.

Justin (as in "just in time") was originally in a shelter somewhere near Richmond, Chesterfield maybe. I don't know how he came to be there, but he was adopted out by an apartment dweller. The landlord changed his mind about allowing her to have a dog and she was in the process of returning the dog to the shelter when a volunteer from another rescue group found the tearful woman in the parking lot with Justin. This other volunteer ended up taking the dog home, but she contacted VGSR about taking on the dog.

I drove to Richmond today to pick up Justin and he is a wonderful dog. He was a bit intimidated by me at first but he later tried to climb over the crates in the back of the van to get up to the front seat with me on the drive home. He will get a lot of interest from potential adopters if I put him on the VGSR website. However, I have two potential placements for him that I know of already. It would be nice to place him that way so I can't have to deal with all the emails and inquiries from marginal applicants.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Six dogs in two weeks

This is a record rate of placement for me, 6 dogs in 2 weeks. Here's some news and updates on their stories:

From the new home of Marine (now known as Sarge): Hi everyone! So glad to be able to share happy things with you. I appreciate so very much what you do and how well things have worked out for me personally. I am just beside myself with happiness. . . . they are a never
ending source of delight.

From Frisky's new mom (fostering became adopting): Ok I admit it I'm a foster failure...I'm keeping her. She's a really good girl no accidents in the house so far and just a great girl. I may have to change her name to shadow since she follows me EVERYWHERE. I have a problem getting out the door in the morning to go to work because she keeps trying to squeeze out the door with me.

From Filly's new home: She is still struggling with stairs, down is easier than up. For up she hesitates and then almost throws herself up the stairs - or cries for Miles to carry her. She indicates when she wants/needs to piddle and seems happy - we're very happy.

Brady went to his new home on Friday so they would have the entire weekend to spend with him. He has a 8 year old boy of his own and parents who had a life-long experience chasing after a husky. I'm thinking that Brady should be a piece of cake after that.

Samson went to his new home last Saturday. He lives on a 65 acre farm that his new dad uses to grow fresh vegetables for a food bank. He's a good man and has had dogs all his life. Samson probably bonded with his new owner within 10 minutes of my leaving, and hopefully Samson will have found his home at last.

From Tippy's new home, where she has a big brother named Mo: Hi all, just wanted to thank you for two wonderful dogs. Mo barks and jumps when other dogs come around. He did the same when he first met Tippy. She gave him a look that seemed to say “tell someone who cares” and ignored his behavior. By the time we made the trip around the parking lot at Pets Mart, Mo was in love and Tippy was looking at him saying well I guess you’re ok, but pushing me around isn’t going to happen.

Mo is 90 pounds of raw muscle and Tippy is a very petite maybe 50+ pound female. She was not impressed and let him know it would take more than muscles to win her heart. When we got home he brought her every toy he had in the house, her reaction was, that’s nice and walked off. She was too busy checking out every room and everything to play with him. But she did want to keep him in site without him knowing she was interested. Tippy was treated to a light lunch and a trip to the Eaton Doggie Spa. Then it was nap time and they went into their crates. Of course the crates are in the living room where else would you keep them?? Both were tired and are sleeping as I type.

Six dogs in two weeks is wonderful, but of course they could all come back tomorrow. Let's hope not. I was very, very happy with all of the adopters and what they had to offer each dog. It sounds like neither of the two rotties mentioned in my last post will be coming my way after all. However, there is a new young male shepherd heading here this week.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A tool and a trap

Online photographs, and internet generally, have really revolutionized dog rescue. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that it has created dog rescue. Sure, people were pulling dogs from shelters and finding them homes prior to the internet, but now many dogs are rescued from far away and moved long distances to their new homes. Breed-specific rescue groups have formed, such as Virginia German Shepherd Rescue, that make concerted efforts to rescue and re-home all of that breed's adoptable dogs found in shelters. Other groups that take on a variety of pure bred and mixed breed dogs have the ability to showcase their fosters to a national audience of online adopters.

The importance of the photograph can not be overstated. I have had dogs posted on the web with great pictures that get little response. For some reason, changing the picture just for the sake of change, will often bring in email from interested adopters. It is not an exaggeration to say that a good photograph can save a dog's life. That is particularly true if the dog is in a shelter with limited time. It is also true for dogs coming into rescue.

There is one woman from whom I will take dogs sight unseen. Everyone else must send pictures. (It's like the old saying: "In God we trust, everyone else must pay cash.") I've been burned by enough people who have misrepresented a dog's age, breed, size, or other characteristics, that I always want to see a picture before agreeing to take in a dog.

Photos are a double edged sword, however. Once I see one, it makes it twice as hard to decline to take in a dog. Last week I was hit with two requests to take in rottweilers. Now, we are planning a trip to NYC in July, so I'm trying very hard NOT to take in more dogs right now. But when I see faces like these two, I've very hard pressed to turn them down. The two pics on the right are a young male rottie in Pennsylvania who will be coming next weekend along with a German Shepherd pup. The beautiful girl on the left is in WV and may be coming early next week, perhaps with a litter of mixed breed puppies. Apparently the "SUCKER" tattoo on my forehead is visible for quite some distance.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

New homes for Filly, Frisky?

Last Sunday I drove to Front Royal, VA, for a VGSR adoption event. It's about 2.5 hours but was well worth the trip at the end of the day.

Filly was adopted by a very nice couple from Maryland who have been driving to VGSR adoption events for several weeks now, anxious and actively looking for a dog. Filly, you may recall, is a skinny little shepherd with a big attitude. It didn't matter that she was a newcomer to the pack; she moved in and took charge. I swear, only a female shepherd could pull it off.

She has a retired daddy now and mom was going to be home for her first couple weeks to help with the bonding and training. She will be a handful, but she is pretty sweet and they have time and apparently needed a dog that would keep the household lively. They got one.

Frisky spent the day at the end of a leash held by a new volunteer from that area. Apparently they bonded when no one was looking and she ended up taking Frisky home to "foster." I've only heard from her once since then, but things seemed to be going well. Hopefully the foster will turn into an adopter so I won't have to worry about and decide how to spell Frisky's name.

She's a great dog, went through some very bad health problems before I got her, so she really deserves a permanent place in the home of a true dog lover. Finally, perhaps the best news of the day was a lead on a possible new home for Samson. I could use more days like this.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The power of luck

Two weeks ago the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA had an adoption event. They invited a few other rescue groups and shelters, and I went with some of my dogs. They generally have a lot of visitors at those events, and it was a beautiful day so I had high hopes. However, as luck would have it, I didn't get much interest in the five dogs I took that day: Chance, Brady, Teddy, Frisky, and Filly. Perhaps it was such a nice day that everyone stayed home and mowed their grass. It's been raining almost daily around here and mowing opportunities have been few and far between.

Still, it was a nice event. We had a lot of volunteers come out to help that I hadn't seen in a while, including some former adopters, always nice to see. Brady was charming; he really works the crowd. Teddy was shy but got a lot of attention from volunteers and finally warmed up and got his confidence up. Frisky was uncharacteristically barky and Filly was just herself (more on her in a later post).

The real star of the day was Chance, who loves outings, loves people, and gives hugs to everyone who passes by. One of the VGSR volunteers met Chance at an adoption event in Gainesville a few weeks ago and may want to give him a try. She's looking for a new dog to train for therapy work and Chance does seem to have the temperament for it anyway. She likes big, goofy dogs, and won't be too fussed about a few household goods that may suffer in the course of his training.

Back to the matter of luck. I think that adoption events are pretty much always a matter of luck. It's a question of the right person coming along at the right time and seeing the right dog. It is hit and miss, but sometimes the payoff comes later. Last Saturday I went out with Animal Connections on their weekly Saturday outing at the Barrack's Road Shopping Center in Charlottesville. I took just Brady and Teddy. As luck would have it, a man happened to stop by the grocery store where we were set up. He recognized Brady from having seen him at the CASPCA event the week before. I gave him my number and his wife called that evening wanting to arrange a meeting.

I drove Brady to Crozet on Monday, met the couple and their 8 year old son, recently moved from Wisconsin. Nice folks and Brady is a nice dog, so they hit it off. I'm taking him to their place to do the adoption on Friday evening so they will have all weekend to spend with him. Wish us luck.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Kids have dirty faces

Cassie is a rottie that we adopted to a wonderful young couple here in Charlottesville. They both graduated from UVA, moved to Georgia for a couple years, had a baby girl, and are now back living in northern Virginia.

They have not one, but two large dogs. Both Cassie and Cooper were adopted from us. These folks started new careers, moved twice, and had a baby, all without dumping their dogs.

These are seemingly impossible feats for so many people these days, who dump their dogs along with all other aspects of their single lives when they buy that first mini-van.

I'm sure it wasn't always easy, but then, neither is giving up your dog, or at least it shouldn't be.

A transfer and a promotion

Don't be excited by the title. I don't have a job yet and we are not moving. It's about a dog. Big surprise.

You may recall that I recently took in a VGSR return named Marine. His first owner was a young marine who committed suicide and the second owner was a cop with no realization of what was involved in owning a dog. I took him back from the cop because his orginal foster home was full. I didn't figure I'd have him long because he's a good looking young male, always in high demand.

He was returned to us at the last Gainesville adoption event (See, "A pretty good day", Sunday, May 24, 2009), where a young woman came to meet some of our foster dogs. She was interested in my Chance. So interested, in fact, that she drove down here to meet him. One of the things I liked most about her was that she was open to finding the right dog, regardless of breed even though she had been interested in shepherds orginally.

She settled on Marine, I arranged for a home visit in Reston (Thanks, Bob), and we met at the end of the week in Culpeper to do the adoption paperwork and transfer the dog. Marine moved right in with few transition problems. He now has a new home and an upgrade in title -- Sarge.

The email at the end of the first day sounded wonderful, they had had a great day, but that is the honeymoon period so I waited until another email today before finally considering him to be adopted. Sarge doesn't need to be crated at night, he is friendly to absolutely everyone, and the adopter is still planning to take him for training. The boyfriend's female shepherd has some adjusting to do, but it didn't sound like anything that can't be worked out by the dogs themselves.