Tuesday, March 30, 2010

And now for something completely different

Here are some pics of some happy cats playing on a cat tree. I had bought that thing and a similar piece for our cats quite a while ago when they were mostly living in our guest bedroom and bathroom upstairs. They never really used them and they were taking up space so they found a new home with cats who are appreciating them.

Monday, March 29, 2010

One leg is not enough to stand on

The day went downhill after that first call from the vet. They were not able to get the leg back into the hip socket. The surgical options were not great either, mostly because Brady only had one good leg. The other rear leg was non-weight bearing because there was a pelvic fracture after all. It didn't require surgery and would heal eventually, but it prevented Brady from bearing weight on his "good" rear leg, which he would need to be able to do to recover from the surgery on the "bad" leg. One of the front legs also had a fracture in the elbow joint, and the chance for a successful repair of that leg was reduced by a deep cut that would have provided an excellent opportunity for a post-op infection causing the surgical repair to fail. With only one sound leg and two requiring surgery, the poor guy didn't have any options. I went to the vet and laid with him for a while and held him for euthanasia.

With Emmylou I felt that I had done everything I could for the dog. With Brady, I could not help but feel that I failed him, and I did. It's our job to protect them and I couldn't do so. I'm damn sick of losing dogs and writing eulogies.

Brady's misadventure

I've had Brady for a year or so. Just recently he has taken to jumping the fence. Generally he has just come into the yard near the house, ran around a little, looked for the cat and cat food. Yesterday he was out in the dog yard and pasture running with Sparky. I saw Sparky come back in and hang around the gate without Brady. He trotted back out a few times and I kept expecting Brady to come back in with him. I walked out into the pasture and looked around to make sure he wasn't just hunting the tree line and ignoring my calls, but he just wasn't there.

I'm cursing the damn dog for jumping the fence and not having enough sense to stay where he was well off. I put Sparky back into the kennel and we noticed that he was up on the high platform in the kennel looking out towards the front of the property and barking. Sparky kept insisting that something was happening out front, so I finally got in the car to drive up the road and have a look. I didn't have to go far and found Brady just about 10' outside our fence, on top of the bank along the road. He was laying there and looked ok, but was unable to move. His back legs were obviously injured and had some wounds. I picked him up and carried him to the van and drove back home.

Clay found the peroxide and I poured some on the most apparent wounds and then we carried him inside, up to the office, making sure that Sparky saw that we had him back so he would settle down. He seemed to have no use of his back legs but wasn't actively bleeding and strangely enough he wasn't expressing a lot of pain. Generally when a dog is in pain you can see it in their eyes and they may pant heavily and vocalize. Brady has always been a very vocal dog; I sometimes think he's never had an unexpressed thought. He laid down, rested comfortably, seemed glad to be here and even wagged his tail a bit. I gave him some pain meds and he relaxed. We discussed whether or not to go to the emergency vet but I decided against it. The more I looked at him, the more I thought this may have been the result of a dog fight rather than a car. He had some puncture wounds that looked like bite marks. The emergency vet would have cleaned up the wounds, put him on an IV, given him pain meds, and taken xrays. The bill would have come close to $1,000 and I'd still have a dog that needed to go to the vet today.

Because he didn't seem to be in terrible pain after I medicated him, I decided to wait. He slept all night although he did move himself around a little bit on the floor here in my office. We carried him to the car this morning and I drove him to the vet. Dr. Hudson examined him and didn't think there was enough swelling to indicate a fracture. On initial exam, she thought he may have a torn cruciate ligament in the right rear leg.

Just had a call from the vet. Amazingly, no fractures, but his right hip is out of the socket. They will anesthetize him and try to get it back into place manually. It was a car strike, not a dog fight after all. All things considered, he is a lucky little dog.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

So far, so good

Copper is doing well in his prospective new home. He's good with the cats and is well behaved indoors. She has noticed his smile, the "funny wrinkly face when he's really happy." He wants to be near her all time, plays when she wants to and settles down when she wants quiet. The chickens may be a bigger hurdle, but there's a fenced yard for the dogs away from chicken territory so they have some time to work on that.

Shayna wrote to say that Rocky had his first hike yesterday. These are her pics. Rocky is the dog in the foreground and I believe that is Shika in front of him.

Yesterday I took a good long hike with the two rottie boys, Sparky and Brady. I was too sore to take them today so I took Molly instead but did an even longer hike. When I got home I put Brady and Sparky into the dog yard and pasture for a romp. Brady seems to have gone AWOL. He has learned that he can jump the fence so now he's a containment problem. If he comes back, he'll never get out of the kennels again except to go on leashed walks. He's just reduced his adoption prospects too.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fingers crossed

Last weekend I met a woman at an adoption event who was interested in Copper. The short version of this story is that he's with her tonight on a trial.

I took him to her place this morning. She actually lives in Fluvanna County not too far away. The only real issues are: 1. two very senior female dogs who can't engage in rough play with him; 2. numerous cats; 3. chickens; and 4. three horses and one mean donkey.

On first meeting Copper did very well. He took correction and re-direction very well. He was curious and the cats and chickens, but not really aggressive.

The woman is dog savvy and has the time and experience to work with him. He's actually a rather well-mannered dog so I think it stands a chance, and it's a great home so it's a chance worth taking.

Keep your fingers, toes, and paws crossed that all works out.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Gypsy goes to the doctor

Among the things I've been forgetting and failing to do is to get the kennel license and tags from Fluvanna County for 2010. Today when I pulled out all the rabies certificates to take with me to get the tags, I discovered that Gypsy's rabies vaccine was expired.

I called the vet and got an appointment for early afternoon. Gypsy always likes riding with me, although now I have to lift her into the car. She comes up behind me, puts her head and nose up against my face, and lets me hold her head like that as we drive. People don't always believe that she really is a sweet girl. She's a total daddy's girl and has no use for anyone else.

She's never been good at the vet, but she is better than she was when she was younger. We muzzled her and I held her tight. She got her vaccines, and tested negative for heartworm/lyme/erlichia. We drew blood for some routine blood work because she's an old girl and is on twice daily Rimadyl.

Their records showed her as being 14 years old. They would have got that information from me, but I think it may be stretching the truth a little bit. I've been thinking she is about 12, which definitely makes her the now most senior dog around here.

She's got some wobble in her rear end now, but I told the vet that Gypsy still does everything she did when she was younger, just not quite as fast, quite as long, or quite as hard.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Boys, Boys, Boys

The best way for me to cope with emotional exhaustion is to match it up with physical exhaustion. So yesterday afternoon I loaded up both Sparky and Brady and headed for the trails. Emmylou's harness fit Brady perfectly. Apparently they are about the same girth even though Emmy was much taller and longer.

I had not had Brady out on the trails yet and was pleasantly surprised to learn that he had both trail sense and leash sense. He stuck to the trails better than Sparky and I think he will become the lead dog. He never stopped to mark, nor did he stray off the trail, and he was easy to guide in the direction I wanted to go when the trail forked.

Sparky still bounced from tree to tree, determined to mark the entire forest as his own. Fortunately, he responds well to a verbal command or a jerk on the leash. I had them connected daisy chain style for a while, but that was a little too advanced for these guys at this stage. I just held both leashes and they walked side by side.

Her Holiness, The Most Righteous, Exalted, Lady Ga Ga, has a song called "Boys, Boys, Boys." The lyrics of the refrain go like this:

Boys, Boys, Boys
We like boys in cars
Boys, Boys, Boys
Buy us drinks in bars
Boys, Boys, Boys
With hairspray and denim
Boys, Boys, Boys
We love them!
We love them!

While we were walking, I re-wrote the lyrics:

Boys, Boys, Boys
We can walk for hours
Boys, Boys, Boys
Lift a leg on flowers
Boys, Boys, Boys
Females are trouble
Boys, Boys, Boys
We love them!
We love them!

Ok, it works better with the music running through your head.

My mind has a lot of idle time when walking.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Our last walk

Tuesday was a beautiful spring day but it was a rough day. Emmylou's pain wasn't being controlled anymore. She hurt when rising and walking appeared to be difficult. She had a sway and a weakness that we hadn't seen before. She could still climb the stairs, slowly, but going down was difficult unless I held her collar and steadied her. She was uncomfortable much of the day even as I increased the pain meds and gave her something new. But in the late afternoon we went to the dogpark to see her friends and she wagged her tail and gave everyone a smile and a kiss.

I really didn't plan to do a walk, she seemed too unsteady on her feet. But when we left the dogpark she headed down the trail instead of going back to the van. I was obviously going to do anything she wanted, and I expect she knew it.

We hadn't gone very far when we heard something moving through the woods, probably a deer but I couldn't see it. Her ears perked up and she got some of the old bounce back in her step, even pulling me down the trail a bit in the direction of the sound.

We didn't go far but I'm glad we went.

Clay had to hit two drug stores on his way home to get a prescription filled, but the muscle relaxers gave her some comfort last night and she seemed to sleep well. I brought the guest room mattress into the office so I could stay with her last night, but she occupied the center of it, and the pillow, so I went back to my own bed as not to disturb her. She slept near Molly, who seemed to know what is going on.

Today I made the call and the trip to the vet for that last act of kindness because it was clear that her quality of life would not recover. I held her head and kissed her as the vet took away her pain.

Those eyes of hers could look right through me and read me like a book. She spoke with her voice, her eyes, and her entire body, reserving her greatest excitement for the hunt and her happiest expressions for people. She greeted everyone like a long lost friend, but she was most vocal when Clay would come home from work, telling him about everything that he had missed during the day.

She got dealt a few bad hands in life, but she sure never held it against us. We were the lucky beneficiaries of other people's ignorance and misfortune. I can not express what she meant to me. She was tall, slender, grey, and beautiful, and she was a steadfast friend.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Copper is a cutie

Copper is not one of my typical shepherd- or rottie-mix fosters. He's a bully breed, or more accurately, a bully mixed breed. I don't know those dogs well at all. He's probably part American Bull Dog, part pit bull, maybe part boxer. Whatever he is, he's a very good looking dog.

The bully breeds suffer from breed prejudice more than any other dogs. They are banned in many housing complexes and sometimes in entire cities. They are powerful dogs and they had the misfortune of becoming popular with drug dealers and ghetto trash, not to mention dog fighting scum like Michael Vick. If trained to be aggressive, they are a danger. If raised properly, they are as sweet and loveable as any dog can be. Rather than banning the breed, enacting and enforcing spay/neuter laws, licensing regulations, and leash laws would solve this problem and many others.

I don't know the breeds well, however, and I'm not sure what kind of home to pursue for him. He's well behaved indoors; it really seems like he's been a household dog before. He's a bit on the alpha side though. He gets along really well with Teddy, and doesn't seem aggressive towards others, but he and Brady did get into it one day. It was a fight over food, and it was my fault. I had just introduced them and I fed them together without staying to supervise. One dog probably rushed the other's food dish and that set it off. I wasn't even aware of it until later. It was obvious that they had been fighting, both dogs were exhausted and both were covered with spit slime and dirt, but no blood. For those two dogs to have fought without drawing blood means that there was far more snarling and body slams than teeth involved in the fight. It was a boy fight. There was no real attempt to hurt each other, they just wanted to prove a point. Still, I have kept them apart after that. Brady is happy with Sparky, and Copper is happy with Teddy, so there has been no need to push my luck.

He's a sweet, sweet boy, however. He loves people, loves hugging and cuddling, and he comes when called. I tested him with cats the other day and he was curious but not aggressive. I guess I'd exercise the same caution I do when adopting rotties-- the adopter must be smarter than the dog. No tea baggers.

p.s. I put Copper together with Brady and Teddy today. No problems, they all played nicely. I'll supervise at feeding time.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Junior and Senior

I like the idea of moving dogs around within our extended pack, at least for certain activities. For one reason, they need to learn to accept and get along with "outsider" dogs. Second, they can learn different behaviors from different dogs. In the case of my Emmylou/Teddy walking pair, there was no question about them getting along. They both get along with everyone they've ever met.

Teddy, however, needs to learn Emmylou's confident behavior, especially in new situations (outside the home environment), and when meeting people. Teddy is still a scared little boy. He's happy and confident here at home, but out in public or when meeting new people he shrinks back into his shell. He will never get adopted if that continues so he's part of my push to place my other fosters while I'm in a lull with the shepherds.

He has never really been away from home except to adoption events, where he is always terrified. Taking him walking with Emmylou gets him out, will get him to trust and rely on me, and will let him see the behavior of a dog who thoroughly enjoys socializing with new dogs and new people.

We did a relatively short walk on the Fluvanna Heritage Trail, followed by some dog park time. It was enough of a walk for Emmy and it was twice as much walk for him with his short little legs.

On the trail, he stuck to Emmy like glue and looked back at me with suspicion. In the dog park, she greeted everyone and he pretty much kept his distance from everyone, human and canine. But it was our first time there. I think he will come around.

A few times, when he thought I wasn't looking, I saw him forget his fear, perk up his ears and tail and actually enjoy himself.

Home at last

Shayna's email from Utah:

Made it! Woke up in KC to 6 inches of snow and an ice rink down I-70. About half way between Salina and the CO border the sun came up and the roads cleared off. Then I about got flattened by a semi on I-80. Had to wake up Rocky to get him out of the car once we got in at 1 a.m. I'm letting him sniff about before we get in bed. He's already found a few toys he likes and I think a bone mine never chewed on.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sparky was here

I can't believe I've had Sparky this long and have never taken him hiking. He loved every moment of it and was surprisingly good on the leash. He has the best natural "heel" I've ever seen on a dog. He trots along next to me, keeping his head in contact with my hand or thigh. That may change once he develops more confidence on the trail. Not that Sparky is a dog that lacks confidence. We met one couple with a boxer and he was bound and determined to get to him. Sparky tends to kick butt and ask questions later, so I kept them apart. Sparky was wearing a harness, but I think I'll put a pinch collar on him in the future so I can attach a short leash quickly when I need better control. We need to work on his social skills. He's generally fine with other dogs here at home after he's beaten them up one time and everyone knows who's boss.

Mostly today's hike was about marking territory. He pissed on everything he could and when he started running low on urine he did more of the kicking with his rear legs after a short piss, spreading leaves and forest debris, which dogs often do to spread their scent over a bigger area.

He was good with people we met and I let one man pet him as he passed by with his wife. I could see the look of envy in the guy's eyes. I'm guessing they have a little yap dog, or a cat, at home.

I love this dog and haven't made much of any effort yet to find him a home. He's a mixed breed, but has a pure rottie personality. He loves tactile attention and craves human contact as much or more than food.
I am without a foster shepherd at the moment and my plan is to work on placing my four non-shepherd fosters, Sparky, Brady, Teddy, and Copper.

My ambitious springtime plan is to do a pretty long hike with Sparky or another dog in the morning and a shorter walk with Emmylou in the afternoon so she will still get out to see her dogpark friends.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kaiser's legacy

An article written by Lillian Stevens, titled "If They Could Tell Us Their Stories, Regina Root Canine Rescue" recently appeared in the April 2010 edition of "Williamsburg Next Door Neighbors."

Regina and family are friends and two-time adopters. The first dog they adopted from me was a senior shepherd named Kaiser. Kaiser had come to me along with his female companion, Gretel. (Kaiser is on the left and Gretel on the right in the picture at the right). They were about the last two dogs given up by a lifelong shepherd lover and breeder who was facing her own mortality and was, with the help of friends, making arrangements for the last of her dogs.

The Roots adopted Kaiser (left), a kind and gentle soul in one of the most beautiful German Shepherd forms I've ever seen. He showed them the very best that the breed had to offer. Unfortunately, Kaiser developed cancer and didn't last long, but Kaiser had an impact on the Roots that outlasted his time with them.

The Roots were looking to adopt a dog as a family pet. They also got some major life lessons, a new "cause" for lack of a better word, and me, thrown in with the bargain.

They were good people to start with, but I have to give Kaiser credit for making them into more than ordinary good adopters. They saw the inside of the rescue world and even a bit of its dark side, but they came through it more devoted than ever. The dogs they have fostered since then, and especially their current girl, Maya (right), are the beneficiaries of Kaiser's impact on that family in the all too brief time they were together.

It seems that the length of time we share our world with another being is not a reliable predictor of the impact the other may have on our lives. It is as true with people as it is with dogs, a fact that I'm mindful of as the first day of spring approaches, because that day is the fifteenth anniversary of my first partner's death. What seems like nothing but a senseless and inconsolable loss, is an opportunity for a new life experience for those who survive in this world and, I hope, for those that pass on as well. While I don't subscribe to any hate- or fear-based religion (is there any other kind?), I do hope for and maybe even believe, that there is some sort of recycling of the human spirit or consciousness such that, in some unknowable sense, we will cross paths again with those who have touched our lives in brief but profound ways, and maybe walk together again for a while.

(A .pdf file of the Williamsburg Next Door Neighbors publication is available here: http://www.wburgndn.com/issues/Apr2010pp1-22.pdf. The article about Regina begins on page 8 and I encourage you to read it.)

An early morning farewell

Rocky is not a morning dog. We had to wake him up to feed him, get him outside, and ready to go. He would have preferred to sleep in and get a later start.

Shika, on the other hand, was ready to go last night when Shayna started packing up her car.

They were off by 6:30, heading west.

I think Rocky knows that we helped him.

He's going to have a far better life than the low-rent, white trash who dumped him at the shelter last summer.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A busy day

The day started out frosty, but the sky was clear, the sun was warm, and it was soon another beautiful spring day.

We hit the trails this morning with Shika, Rocky, and visiting Austin, for a good but relatively easy walk.

I'm ready to commit to walking again as I've really been enjoying it the last few days. Having someone to walk with sure helps with the motivation. During her morning romp in the pasture, Emmylou once again jumped out of the pasture fence. This means two things: a. she's feeling good; and b. I need to walk her daily again because I can't trust her out in the pasture.

When we got back from the morning walk there was a call from Austin's dad, who was back in town and ready to come pick him up.

I don't know which of them was happier.

Shayna, Rocky, Shika, and I then headed into town to Dirty Dogs, a self-service dog washing facility in Charlottesville. Rocky was surprisingly good with the bath and emerged as a clean, shiny, good looking and good smelling dog.

We came back home for some sun drying time in the dogyard and a follow up brushing to remove a lot of dead hair and winter coat.

We took a break while Rocky napped and relaxed with a stuffed toy he found somewhere in the house. I had no idea he liked stuffed toys. I'm not sure the stuffing will last long, but he enjoyed it and Shayna has some waiting for him at home.

Then it was back to the dog park with Emmylou, who was needing an outing even though she had already had her unauthorized, off-premises romp this morning.

There was a bigger crowd at the dog park today and Rocky showed a lot of tact in avoiding any dog who looked like trouble. We didn't stay too long, it was mostly a social event for Emmylou, who saw several of her human and canine friends.

Everyone was pretty tired after dinner. Shayna, Shika, and Rocky will be heading home to Utah early tomorrow. Rocky has been here since last July, and his time in foster care has been a rough and rocky road. He will be missed, but I'm happy to see him heading off as a happy and healthy dog at the beginning of his new life.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Afternoon delight

We hit the Fluvanna Heritage Trial at Pleasant Grove this afternoon. The sun came out and it was a perfect day for a walk in and out of the woods. Shayna walked both Rocky and Shika together. His leash manners improved dramatically with a pinch collar instead of the harness and with Shayna holding the leash.

I walked Emmylou, who was ready to get out and go today. I think Rocky is already beginning to bond with Shayna. He went into her room when he came upstairs this evening, ready to stake out his position on the bed.

First contact

Shayna and Shika arrived Monday afternoon after a three day drive from Utah. We did introductions in the dog yard and went for a short late afternoon walk on the Fluvanna Heritage Trail, finishing up with some dog park time just before dark.

Shika wasn't sure what was going on, coming into a household with 8 indoor dogs, but she took it all in stride, sticking close to her mom for security. Rocky tried his best to get her to play, but she's not ready for that yet, although they got along fine.

Rocky demonstrated that he's very food motivated and Shayna was able to get him to "sit" and "down" with little effort. They also both shared Shayna's bed last night, which was a first for Rocky but one that he will quickly come to love and expect.

Today we went for a walk on the Rivanna Trail in Charlottesville from Free Bridge to Riverview Park. Rocky loved it and the dogs did well together. We encountered several other people, some with dogs, and Rocky greeted everyone. It was obviously a new experience for him, but one that he enjoyed. Shayna and Shika walk a lot, so he will be getting a lot of walking and hiking experience once they get back home.