Friday, July 24, 2009

Two kinds of people

There are two kinds of people in this world, generous and petty.

The term "generous" is best represented by the response to Rocky. I don't limit the definition of "generous" to anything financial. It means generous of spirit, giving, offering anything one can do to help. Rocky brought out the generosity in many people who were touched by his plight. He has had vets and vet staff going out of their way and well above the call of duty to help him. He has had financial assistance from people who have never met him. He has moved people to offer to help him, and me, in any way that they can.

In my mind the opposite of "generous" is "petty." Petty meaning small, mean-spirited, selfish. Unfortunately, there are petty people in rescue as well. One such person is actually a board member with Virginia German Shepherd Rescue. The rescue has been working on developing a new website. One of the people on our board was unhappy with the option that we chose for the new website. Because of her pettiness, she has done everything possible to disrupt and derail the process. She has colluded with another woman who has effectively held our website and domain name hostage in order to get what she wants. The two of them have created so much controversy and unrest that we have lost volunteers and have even lost our president. Now, neither of these bitches does one damn thing to help a dog. They don't foster, they don't transport, they don't do a thing that requires getting off their fat asses. What matters to them is not a dog like Rocky, it is nothing but their own ego.

The result of this controversy will probably be the demise of VGSR as an effective organization. The departure of our president was just the beginning of the end. Soon all that will be left are a bunch of bitches who view VGSR as a social club. Because they don't actually foster, all they will do is sit behind a table and sell t-shirts on a Sunday afternoon.

p.s. I called to check on Rocky and was told that he's doing well at the vet hospital where he's boarding.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

City dogs

Being without dogs is a strange sensation for me. Generally my own dogs and my own fosters keep me busy enough that I don't pay that much attention to others. (There's a line from MASH that goes: "Minding my own business is a full time job, in my spare time it's my hobby.") But, walking in NYC, I am noticing every dog I see.

There are the early morning dog walks with owners, generally just a short one to take care of business. Then, about midday, I'm seeing a lot of paid dog walkers, probably would-be actors and dancers trying to pay the bills. In the evenings after work is when we see the most dogs with owners, getting out and about for a good time. Then again late evening, everyone does a quick business walk before bedtime.

I think about how our own dogs would handle city life. Emmylou would love it, people everywhere, and she would want to greet and speak with all of them. Cabell would like it too, although not quite as enthusiastically. Molly would be terrified being surrounded by nothing but concrete, buildings, and cars. She's not happy unless she's got grass under her feet and room to run. Bremo would side with Molly. He's led a very sheltered life at our house and knows nothing of the outside world and cares about it even less. Gypsy would hate it because there is too much going on that she couldn't control and people would be constantly violating her personal privacy zone, coming too close to her and her dad. Zachary wouldn't know what to think, but he'd be happy is Clay was around.

There are lots of small breed dogs as one would expect for city dwellers. But I've also seen ridgebacks and standard poodles. Among decent sized dogs, the most common breed I've seen here in mid-town Manhattan is the Bulldog. With their short legs and low key demeanor, they are probably pretty easy to exercise and happy being couch potatoes. I've seen more unneutered dogs than expected, and I'm not too happy about that, it just goes to show that the south doesn't have a monopoly on ignorance.

51 going on 15

We are back in NYC after spending the weekend at Hugh's place on Swinging Bridge Lake near Monticello, NY. The "country place" is in the Catskills in Sullivan County. In its heyday, the Catskills were filled with resorts, weekend, and vacation homes for folks from the city. I guess it still is, but with travel so much easier and less expensive, people go farther and to more varied locations. Many of the old resorts have been taken over by New York's Hasidim, (think Amish-style Jews, but without the tidy upkeep).

We lounged about, cooked out, swam in the lake, and I spent a couple of hours paddling a kayak up and down the lake. Later in the afternoon, one of Hugh's neighbors came by with his motorboat and took us for a ride. I mentioned that I used to water ski and he asked me if I'd like to do so again. I said "yes" before I could think better of it and soon found myself in the water fumbling with skis, a tow rope, and trying to get myself into position behind the boat. This was the first time since I was a teenager that I had tried to ski. I was never an expert, but I had grown up skiing and had always enjoyed it. As I sat in the water waiting for the boat to get into position, my arms already sore from two hours of kayaking, I was just hoping not to embarrass myself.

The driver was skillful, the boat very powerful, and I soon found myself on my feet skiing again for the first time in well over 30 years. Like riding a bike, the muscle memory came instantaneously and I found that I could balance and control my movements. What didn't come back immediately was my nerve. Teenagers don't think, and it serves them well. I had a brief thought about the consequences of falling for an old guy with minimal health insurance, but the sheer exhileration of skiing again quickly put that thought out of my mind. I moved back and forth, waved to passersby, and finally jumped the wake when we got back near to Hugh's dock. My arms felt like they were 3" longer and made of rubber, and I had to swim back to the dock because I couldn't pull myself back up into the boat, but every moment of it was pure fun.

I felt like a kid again for a short time, but later have wondered if I've lost the ability to have fun.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Out of town, but not out of touch

Clay and I are in New York for about 10 days of vacation. We are staying with Clay's brother, Hugh, in NYC, but this first weekend are at Hugh's second home north of the city. However, thanks to the wonders of lap tops and wi-fi networks, we are not entirely out of touch. I don't have the ability to upload pictures, but fortunately there have been a few update emails with photos lately.

Bear is a beautiful German Shepherd adopted by two guys who already had two, much smaller, female dogs. Bear is a gentle soul, however, and has fit in very well in his new home. Here's the news that came along with this picture of Bear on a boat:
It has been almost six months since we adopted Bear on February 1st. I can honestly say that he is fully integrated into the pack, both human and canine. Bear is thriving in his new home and is bonded with both canine sisters. He still loves all toys, especially tennis balls, often two in his mouth at a time. He loves his corner of the bedroom with both a large padded crate and XL luxury dog bed beside it and he uses both. His only bad habit is trying to chase the many deer and foxes (while on lease) on daily neighborhood walks in Potomac. He loves car rides to his almost daily excursions to the Shirlington dog park and C&O Canal towpath. He is also becoming very well trip to the beach at Kiawah Island, SC; two trips to Pittsburgh, two trips to Michigan, and all over metro DC. And he has learned to swim...very quickly...and loves it. With regular food, grooming and exercise, his coloring is improving with less Tan and more Red. Bear is a fantastic dog and we love him dearly!!!

Victor is a long-haired shepherd that initially had a bad attitutde towards other dogs. That pretty much got sorted out when he lived with Hercules for quite a while. Victor adored Herc and followed him everywhere. Victor wasn't the easiest dog, but he found a home with a young D.C. couple. They had this to say about him:

Just wanted to give you an update on how much we are enjoying Viktor.(He had a minor name change thanks to a German-speaking friend). Hehas really settled in now and is just about the most fun GSD you canimagine. He has quite an intense ball drive and is always up for agame of ball... he loves to practice his Willie Mays over-the-shouldercatches in our unfinished basement. He is also very affectionate,gives kisses with abandon, and will cuddle and wrestle as well. He isquite a talker and loves to proclaim his excitement, happiness, youname it, with different intonations. His bark adds quite a sound tothe doorbell.His health is great and he is quite athletic and trim at 80 pounds.His fur gives the impression of a much larger dog. His coat is lovelyand lustrous now and his striking appearance is always attracting moreadoring fans as we walk through the neighborhood. I always tellpeople that this gorgeous, well-mannered dog is a rescue from VGSR.He usually gets 4 walks a day and has excellent leash manners. Aneighbor told me that his midday walker proclaimed him her "favorite"and usually they run for a few blocks, which he loves.Viktor also has fans in the dog world, but will respond to anyaggressive dog in kind and frankly thinks it would be a blast to playrough at all times... not really out of malice, but for the fun of it. But, he has learned to turn the other cheek, either strolling calmlyby a barking dog or waiting in a "down" whether they pass or staynearby. (We have a lot of "assertive" males on the block so he getspractice at this.) He has learned to sit before all new introductionsand that helps him get started on his gentle side.Viktor does have a serious side and is obedient and very protective ofhis home and people. But as he's settled in, his goofy and playfulside have really come out. He is a tons of fun!We appreciate all the good work you do for GSDs and thank you forbringing Viktor into our lives!

Finally, here's a video of Tippy and her new big brother, Mo, sent in by Tippy's new home. The video isn't the best, but it clearly shows two happy dogs at play.

That's it for now, folks. Send me your pics and stories so I'll have something to post for the next week or so. I can't promise I'll be able to use them all, but I'll love hearing from you anyway.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Second Chances

Last weekend, Chance's new family came back to complete the adoption paperwork. He's happy, they are happy, I am happy.

We also had a visit from Tippy's new family. She is looking really good and really happy.

I received this photo of Jake, a former foster, who has a mom and grandparents who dote on him. Jake was a trailer park dog who was dumped so his owners could raise pit pulls to support their meth habit. Jake was always a happy dog, but now he has a real reason to be happy. It was one year ago that he was adopted.

Do you remember Jeep? His new owner sent me back my kennel license tag with a note that said, "Things are going REALLY well." Jeep seems to be entirely over his shyness, at least with the people who matter, and his chocolate lab sister. This is one of my favorite pictures of both of us.

Here is a picture of the recently-adopted Justin and his new brother cooling off during a hike. Justin and Jake (above) both went to homes of people who had previously adopted from me. They are really, really lucky dogs.

And of course, there's Rocky. He's just amazing. I don't know if it's just the prednisone talking but he seems to feel great. The ears are still sensitive, of course, but his face is looking a lot better. He has a long way to go yet, but I think he's going to be ok. I had a very nice, rolled leather collar that I had found once on sale and had been saving for a special dog. Rocky is wearing it now.

Someone else walked into the vet's office and paid a big chunk of the rescue's bill for Rocky. We can't thank you enough.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Beautiful Buckley

Sunday was Buckley's day. I had received a half dozen inquiries about him this past week since he was posted on the VGSR website. When we arrived in Gainesville, there was a crowd of people there and several who were interested in meeting him.

I pretty much expected to place him today. He's young, good looking, and as friendly as any shepherd I've ever met. There is just not anything not to like about this dog.

Although I always stress that it is not a first-come, first-served process, in this case I liked the first people I talked to today and I didn't see the need to look any further. They are experienced dog owners, including a prior shepherd. Their children are grown and away from home. They have a large suburban yard and a 6' fence. They bought him good food and a nice size crate.

With everything going on this week, I really didn't have a chance to spend much time with Buckley. He is low-key and not nearly as demanding as many shepherds. We probably won't remember each other in six months, but that's ok. I wish they all were this easy and got adopted this quickly. I probably disappointed a number of people by moving him so quickly before some of them got a chance to meet him. That's ok too, this isn't a people-service activity, it's all about the dogs. The quicker he gets into a good home, the better off he will be, and besides, it's one less dog I'll have to board when we go away this next week. I'm particularly glad he got adopted before these pictures, taken today, hit the website. I would have been flooded with inquiries.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The kindness of strangers

Rescue dogs have always depended upon the kindness of strangers because the human with whom they made their pact failed to live up to his or her end of the bargain. There has been a bond and an unwritten agreement between our two species ever since the first feral canine moved in to live among a community of humans. In the modern human/canine relationship, dogs provide myriad services, but primarily companionship. They are that wagging tail and happy face that forgives all the mistakes we make every day. Most dogs receive only a small fraction of the affection and companionship that they give, but they subsist happily with that. There is no excuse then for a human that fails a dog in the way that Rocky was failed.

Rocky was very aptly named. He is one tough dog. Maybe it's because he's been so miserable for so long that even the minimal care and treatment he's had so far is making him feel so much better. The steroids we started him on after the first vet visit really kicked in fast. He's been gulping down water and running around like a pup. Today he went back to the vet for some surgical intervention on his face, neck, and ears. He also got neutered.

So Rocky had a rough day. But he also had the kindness of many strangers. The staff at Old Dominion Animal Hospital took excellent care of him. Dr. Allison Kramer (an absolute angel) did surgery, cleaned up and closed up the wounds, and did what could be done for the ears. She said that the ear canals are fused shut, and she thinks that the wounds on his face were formed by the infection bursting out from the inner ear since the ear canals were closed. He definitely has hearing loss, probably permanent, but how much remains to be seen.

Everyone said he was just the sweetest dog, however, in spite of the pain he must be in. They also bathed him and got off all the scaly dead skin off his hairless belly. He came home with a new supply of medicines and one more that I need to pick up from the Walmart pharmacy tomorrow.

Another angel came into Rocky's life today without even being seen. When I went to pick him up at the end of the day, I was told that a woman had come in and made a very generous contribution towards Rocky's bill. I don't know who it is, but thank you.

This smile is for you.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Rocky update

I took Rocky to the vet today. Everyone agreed that the woman who owned him should die. We got a load of new drugs, but mostly got a surgery appointment for Friday. They will put him under anesthesia, clean out those ears, as well as clean up and close up all the lacerations on his face and elsewhere. The vet also suspected scabies, and I had too, so I had already treated him with Revolution after his bath on the day I brought him home. Now I may treat the other household dogs as well, and maybe myself because I seem to be itchy.

Rocky continues to be sweet and affectionate, but his head and face are so nasty (and sore) that I am not giving him a lot of hands-on loving. He's been just great in a crate in my office and he goes up and down stairs and out to do his business like he's been here a long time. I expect he's just very happy to finally be someplace cool and fly-free. He's not scratching himself so much anymore, so hopefully he's beginning to feel a little better. The ears will take a lot of work however, and the vet said that he must be miserable with them. He does not seem to hear very much, but he does react to loud noises, so he may not be entirely deaf.

Whenever I've had a profoundly sick dog in the house our own 6 household dogs instinctively know he's sick and pretty much leave him alone. That is proving to be the case with Rocky as well. Gypsy would probably still prefer that I take up scrapbooking as a hobby, but I hope she knows that these dogs need her dad's help.

Thanks to everyone who has shared my outrage and expressed their concern. If it's at all possible we will get him over this, he will be a completely new dog in 3-4 months, and I'll make damn sure that he does live happily ever after.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Why I don't own a gun (WARNING: DISTURBING)

This is Rocky. He was brought into a rural county animal shelter by a woman who laughed when she said that he hadn't seen a vet in over a year and who apparently felt that the stench of infection coming from his fly-infested face and ears was normal. If I was a gun owner who carried a weapon, I might well have pulled my gun and sent the bitch straight to hell where she belongs. It may be the Great Dog's prerogative to send her to hell, but I could have got her to the gates.

She is probably some one's mother and grandmother and their entire inbred clan of cretins would have appeared on local television for their 15 minutes of fame wailing about what a good christian woman "mama" was.

Rocky has no hair on his chest or belly. He has deep and wide lacerations on his face and neck. His ear canals are fused completely closed. Rocky is the result of a breeder who breeds and sells dogs indiscriminately, and maybe even felt that the puppy he sold would have a good home because he was going to live in the country with a houseful of children.

The rural puppy mills run by Amish and Mennonite families in the Shenandoah Valley as a cash crop could well have been the birthplace of Rocky, or any other white trash family in rural VA trying to make a buck off their dog.

I don't yet know if Rocky is deaf or if that condition will be permanent. What is amazing is that this dog still loves people. He's full of kisses for everyone and he seemed to know that I was trying to help him when I was bathing him this afternoon so he could come upstairs to a crate in my office. I hope and expect that the ACOs will be pursuing criminal charges. In any event, that nightmare is behind him and I hope Rocky's life story will have a happier ending.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Behind the scenes

People who see rescue groups out in public probably think that we just keep the dog in our home and bring them out to be adopted. Doesn't seem like much trouble, does it? Some of those same people often ask why our adoption fees are so high, even though they are less than half of what it would cost them to vaccinate, de-worm, test, and speuter a "free" dog. Today was one of those "behind the scenes" days. I left home at 8:30 this morning and finally finished up about 5:00 p.m.

The first part of the day was a long but easy drive down to Natural Bridge to pick up a new shepherd. I'm calling him Buckley, a name I came up with from reading highway signs on the drive home passing through Waynesboro, the home of artist P. Buckley Moss. Buckley is a beauty. About two years old, very friendly, never met a stranger. His coat looks terrible, and he's underweight, but those are easy fixes.

I went directly to the Charlottesville SPCA, which vaccinated him for me and tested him for heartworm (negative, thankfully). Before I got out of there, the vet showed up so I was able to get the rabies vaccine too, which means he can go with me to the VGSR adoption event in Front Royal tomorrow. I also left the SPCA with 4 more puppies, hound mixes who have both ringworm and demodex. Pi was lonely and needed some company. I got a few blocks away and realized that I hadn't picked up the rabies certificate for Buckley in the process of getting the ringworm pups and all their paperwork and medications.

When we finally got back home Clay came out and helped with puppy bathing and dipping in that lime/sulphur dip. It smells bad, but it will clear up nasty skin conditions faster than anything else. Pi got one too. The new pups smelled bad of course, and 2 or 3 of them have very little hair. One of the new pups had pooped in the crate on the trip home and I discovered she had worms in her stool, so everyone got a dose of wormer too. They are now happy in the ringworm kennel with Pi, who is the happiest he's been since he arrived here.

Buckley also got a bath, which he hated and fought, but needed badly. He also got a dose of panacure because a dog that thin probably has worms. He cheered up considerably, however, when we moved yesterday's new girl, now called Samantha, into an empty kennel with him. I'll take them both to Front Royal tomorrow. She's good to go and he only needs to be neutered. He's handsome and extremely friendly, so I suspect he will get a lot of looks and interest tomorrow.

Then I cleaned out the crates and the van in preparation for tomorrow. We introduced Sparky to the Jake-Teddy-Birdie-Brady play group (yes, Brady was returned last week), and so far everyone is getting along well and having a good time. Everyone got fed and I finally got a much needed shower.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The DART rolls again

In response to my posting titled "It's not a minivan, damnit" (12/13/08), an autodealer reader suggested a new name and acronym for my van, Dog Adoption Rescue Transport, or DART. Well, the DART is a 1990 model and is getting up there in years and miles. I arrived home from an adoption event a couple weeks ago with a hopelessly flat tire that could not be repaired. I'm lucky it got me home, the Great Female GSD was certainly looking out for me, because I learned later that I had no idea how to get the spare tire off of its mount under the back of the van. Few things are as frustrating as cars and computers. Computers are at least less expensive to replace.

Anyway, as luck would have it, my birthday was fast approaching when I was needing tires, and it seemed like a great gift idea to me. [With Michael Jackson and Billy Mays both recently deceased at my age of 50, I was actually rather happy to turn the calendar to 51 today.] Anyway, tires are practical, durable, necessary, expensive, and desparately needed -- the perfect gift idea for a mother. To make a short story even shorter, my mother bought two and Clay's mother bought two, so the DART has a new lease on life.

I am exceedingly lucky to have a good relationship with both my own mother and my partner's mother. A couple years ago when we were in New York, I took my mother into a neighborhood gay bar because it was 5:00 o'clock and therefore time for a scotch, lest my mother become testy. We are sitting there chatting and soon struck up a conversation with the guys next to us who were envious of my relationship with my mother. I had never thought all that much about it, but I do know that even now, a lot of gays and lesbians sacrifice their familial relationships when they come out of the closet. Of course I'm thinking it couldn't have been that great of a relationship if it was that easily lost, but still.

I am doubly lucky to have a good relationship with my partner's mother as well. I call her my mother-in-law, she calls me her third son, and it confuses the hell out of many of her old lady friends, much to her delight, I suspect.

Well, those years in law school weren't entirely wasted, because I've managed to make a short story fairly long after all. It takes a lot of things to run a rescue operation, and a functioning vehicle is on the short list of the most essential items. Thanks to the mothers I was able to make the trip up to the Orange County shelter today to pull this girl, an unnamed stray shepherd mix. The DART will be making another trip tomorrow down I-81 to Natural Bridge to meet a young male shepherd who ended up in a SW Virginia shelter.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


We still call Bremo our pup even though he's 8 or 9 years old now. He was born here and he's been blessed with good health thus far. However, a couple weeks ago we discovered a huge raw spot on his neck. It looked like all the fur had been ripped from his skin and my first thought was that he had gotten into a fight. He's only with Cabell and Gypsy and neither of them had a scratch on them, which one would get if one had been involved in a fight with Bremo. Besides, he's a gentle soul and has only been involved in one fight in his entire life.

We finally realized that he had simply scratched the fur from his own neck and have been treating it as a hot spot. It started to heal up, but now he's starting to scratch at it again. If you saw Bremo's paws, you'd realize just how very counterproductive that is to the healing process.

He's on oral antibiotics and a powder that dries up the raw area so it can heal. To stop him from scratching, the vet suggested a t-shirt. Surprisingly, Clay got it on him and he didn't really seem to mind it. Bremo likes any form of attention, petting, or any physical contact. Rottweilers are very tactile creatures. But the t-shirt didn't really cover the spot, which is on his neck rather than his chest. Maybe a turtleneck would have worked, but instead we just cut the sleeve off the t-shirt and slipped that over his head.